How can medical schools apply their duties?

On ongoing or regular basis


The Medical Schools Council will publish dedicated guidance with advice on the admissions processes for welcoming applicants with long term health conditions and disabilities.

You can see the key messages from the Medical Schools Council guidance to medical school admission teams in Welcomed and valued: Our involvement as a professional regulator: Admission to medical school.

Promote health and wellbeing

Medical schools should continuously promote health and wellbeing for their students.

Medicine is a demanding and stressful course and students should be empowered to look after their health and wellbeing through activities by the school.

Some examples of student wellbeing campaigns are in the appendix (panel A7).

Make the course inclusive and welcoming

Before any new student arrives, medical schools should give serious consideration to ensuring the course is inclusive and welcoming for disabled learners. Schools have a duty to anticipate the needs of disabled learners, even if there are no disabled students on the course at a given time.

This covers the physical environment, auxiliary aids, and ways of doing things (provisions, criteria or practices).

Table of ways to make the course accessible

Panel 10: Illustrative examples for the way things are done

Here are some illustrative examples of questions we get about the way things are done at medical school. Often situations are more complex than the illustrative examples, so decisions always need to be made an individual basis.

  • Unauthorised vs authorised absences: A school's absence policy may include a maximum number of authorised absences. A disabled learner is likely to need time off to attend medical appointments. If appropriate for a specific student, the school could make a reasonable adjustment to allow the student to attend all their appointments without taking unauthorised absences.
  • Giving information in advance: A school may share academic material or schedules with students on a certain date. Disabled learners may benefit from having this information in advance - for example to plan their study or their travel to placement locations. If appropriate for a specific student, the school could make a reasonable adjustment to share this information earlier on.

Studying part time: Some medical schools have made arrangements for individual students to complete a medical degree in an approach resembling less than full time, for all or periods of the course. If appropriate for a specific student, the school could apply this as a reasonable adjustment for a disabled learner to complete the course.

Consider specific course elements

Clinical Placements

Medicine and other healthcare courses have teaching in the clinical environment where care is delivered, such as a hospital, health centre, GP practice or community. This brings the student in contact with patients and their families/carers, where they have to learn how to communicate in that context and perform relevant tasks under supervision. Medical schools often do this at multiple sites far from the university. These sites are not directly managed by the medical schools, but the schools will have agreements in place with the NHS providers for their students to do placements there.

Medical schools may wish to:

  • provide support services at the clinical placement locations, which are compatible with the set-up of placements, for example a designated contact based at the hospital, practice etc. Alternatively, schools could offer other means for students to contact support services when on placement (eg out-of-hours contact or helpline)
  • organise support for clinical placements as early as possible. Ideally, this would be at the very beginning of the course. Where clinical and non-clinical years are separate, it would be helpful to discuss support at the beginning of the final pre-clinical year
  • give disabled learners their placement locations and rotas as early as possible
  • include specific information for disabled learners in preparatory sessions for clinical placements (see tips for preparatory sessions in the appendix of the guide, panel A6)
  • offer opportunities for disabled learners to shadow on clinical placements (before they start) so they become familiar with the environment and demands
  • give training to clinical supervisors about the needs of students with long term health conditions and disabilities
  • having a system of 'passports' or 'support cards' carried by students on placement. The passport or card will contain an agreed form of words with the student, to describe their needs. This can be shown to members of staff as necessary in clinical placements. See an example of using student support cards from University College London.

As students gain experience of the clinical environment it may be necessary for the support group to meet again to assess whether the student can still be supported to meet the outcomes related to clinical skills.


Assessment is one of the educational components subject to the Equality Act’s requirements. Medical schools may wish to:

  • apply some measures across a group of students or for everyone taking the assessment for practical reasons. For example:
    • giving a certain amount of extra time to a group of students
    • placing students needing regular breaks at the back of the room or in a separate room
    • adding a rest station for everyone on a practical exam circuit
    • using coloured paper for all students taking an assessment.
  • consider support separately for written and practical assessments, although they will be some overlap between the two settings
  • encourage students to feedback on how effective the support has been as soon as they start taking assessments
  • consider support ‘passports’ or cards for assessments. This could apply especially for practical examinations, where there are multiple stations and examiners
  • consider automatically applying agreed support without re-approving them for each assessment round.

There is additional guidance on the interaction between competence standards and reasonable adjustments in higher education by the Equality Challenge Unit.