Health and disability in medicine 

This section welcomes disabled people in medicine and explains legal definitions of disability and reasonable adjustments.

Key messages from this chapter

  • As the professional regulator, we firmly believe disabled people should be welcomed to the profession and valued for their contribution to patient care.
  • Doctors, like any other professional group, can experience ill health or disability. This may occur at any point in their studies or professional career, or long before they become interested in medicine.
  • No health condition or disability by virtue of its diagnosis automatically prohibits an individual from studying or practising medicine.
  • Having a health condition or disability alone is not a fitness to practise concern. We look at the impact a health condition is having on the person’s ability to practise medicine safely, which will be unique for each case.
  • Medical students and doctors have acquired a degree of specialised knowledge and skills which should be utilised and retained within the profession as much as possible.
  • A diverse population is better served by a diverse workforce that has had similar experiences and understands their needs.
  • Legally, disability is defined as an ‘impairment that has a substantial, long-term adverse effect on a person’s ability to carry out normal day-to-day activities’. This covers a range of conditions, including mental health conditions if they meet the criteria of the definition.
  • Organisations must make reasonable adjustments for disabled people, in line with equality legislation. Making reasonable adjustments means making changes to the way things are done to remove the barriers individuals face because of their disability.

Organisations must consider all requests for adjustments, but only have the obligation to make the adjustments which are reasonable.