How can medical schools apply their duties?

Once student is accepted on the course

Health clearance and occupational health services

It is common practice to ask all applicants who have been offered a place to complete a health clearance form. The process is designed for the school to identify anyone who will need support in advance, and to decide the most appropriate kind of support.

Feedback from medical students shows that initial contact with services is crucial and will have a long-term effect on how the individual interacts with the system for support.

Panel 11: Occupational health services

What is occupational health?

Occupational health is a specialist field concerned with the interaction between work (including vocational training) and health.

The occupational health service consists of a team of specialist qualified doctors and nurses to offer advice for health, safety and wellbeing while working or studying.

The advice is impartial, objective, based on medical evidence and legislation, and bound by doctor-patient confidentiality.

Why is is helpful to seek advice from occupational health?

The service offers independent advice regardless of who is paying for it.

Receiving the appropriate advice at the beginning can save students from unnecessary distress or anxiety, and avoid other negative outcomes in the long-term (eg students taking breaks from the course to recover)

What type of occupational health service to involve

  • A service that is fit for purpose for offering advice for medical students
  • A service with a clear governance structure with senior clinical leadership
  • A service with access to at least one accredited specialist physician with demonstrable current or recent experience in physician health (eg SEQOHS accreditation). It is good practice for the team experience and understanding of the professional caring environment and infection control issues.
  • A service that will be available during important times in the academic calendar – eg beginning of the academic year.
  • A service with an understanding of the different aspects of the course, medical training, and the medical school’s processes.
  • A service that will establish links and collaborate with other services at the university, including disability and student support services.

Occupational health assessment

The sample forms included in the appendix (Panels A8-A9, developed by the Higher Educational Occupational Physicians/Practitioners; HEOPS) can be used as a starting point for requesting an assessment, and for the occupational health service sending a report to the medical school. These documents can be adapted according to the medical school’s needs.

Induction as opportunity for sharing information

Medical schools may have an opportunity to find out information for supporting their students during enrolment and induction.

The medical school can:

  • include information in induction materials about how the school and university support disabled learners
  • give students contact details for all the available support services and the purpose of each, including student support services, student health services, confidential counselling services, occupational health services, disability services and the student union.
  • have dedicated face-to-face induction sessions about supporting disabled learners, covering the whole student cohort (see tips for induction sessions in the appendix of the guide, panel A5)
  • encourage students and give opportunities to discuss any health conditions or disabilities that are likely to impact on ongoing learning
  • include examples or stories of disabled learners in the induction materials

Medical schools can remind students of this information regularly, for example by making it easily accessible on the school’s website or holding refresher session on health and disability through the course.

Financial support

Disabled learners can apply for Disabled Students' Allowances (DSAs) to cover some of the extra costs they have.

Students can get the allowances on top of their student finance. The amount they get does not depend on their household income, but on an assessment of their individual needs. Students do not have to repay DSAs.

The DSA includes three things.

  • Specialist equipment allowance: This funds the cost of major items of equipment such as a computer or a digital recorder. It also covers the costs of insurance, technical support and repair.
  • Non-medical helper allowance: This funds the cost of note-takers, readers, dyslexia support tuition etc.
  • General allowance: This covers other disability related costs not included in the above, such as extra books, printing, photocopying etc. The general allowance can also be used to top up the other allowances if necessary.

More information for disabled students’ funding is available on the UCAS website.

Besides financial assistance with their studies, students may be able to claim additional funding towards day-to-day living. Students can claim this via the Department of Work and Pensions and Student Finance NI in Northern Ireland. This is not affected by any other student finance the student receives. The amount will be decided based on how their health condition or disability affects the support they need.