Welcomed and valued: Supporting disabled learners in medical education and training

How can medical schools apply their duties?

  • Medical schools should continuously promote health and wellbeing for their students. Students should be empowered to look after their health and wellbeing through activities by the school.
  • Medical schools must support disabled learners. Part of this is making the course as inclusive and welcoming as possible. This includes the accessibility of the physical environment, equipment that can help students, and how things are done at the school to make sure disabled learners are not disadvantaged. Schools have a duty to expect the needs of disabled learners, even if there are no disabled students on the course at the time.
  • Medical schools can consider the support structures and processes for specific elements of the course such as clinical placements and assessments.
    • Clinical placements are often delivered away from the medical school services, so schools can think about what support will be available to their students while they are there.
    • Assessment is one of the educational components subject to the Equality Act's requirements. All assessments must be based on defined competence standards, and reasonable adjustments should be made in the way a student can meet those standards.
  • Medical schools can use a health clearance form and occupational health services to identify students needing support. It is good practice to involve occupational health services with access to an accredited specialist physician, with current or recent experience in physician health.
  • A school should make it possible for a student to share information about disabilities (including long-term health conditions) if they wish to do so. Once they have shared this information, the medical school must address the student’s requirements for support as soon as reasonably possible.
  • It is a matter for each school or university to assess how they approach each individual case. It is important to have a process for balanced and fair decision making that will apply across all cases. One approach we encourage medical schools to consider as good practice is the case management model. Schools can use a stepwise process to develop an action plan for supporting each student.
    • Step 1: Form support group for the student
    • Step 2: Decide on key contact(s)
    • Step 3: Agree confidentiality arrangements
    • Step 4: Reach a shared decision about how the student would be affected by the demands of the course.
    • Step 5: Decide whether the student can be supported to meet the competence standards set out in Outcomes for graduates. If the student can be supported to meet the outcomes, the school must help them in doing so. If the school decides that the student cannot be supported in meeting the outcomes, it must encourage the student to consider alternative options, including gaining an alternative degree and other career advice.
    • Step 6: Forming an action plan. The action plan may elaborate on support in each component of the course, as well as care arrangements for the student.
    • Step 7: Implementation, monitoring and review. Implementing the action plan is a shared responsibility between the medical school and the student.
  • Schools can assess the effectiveness of the support given to students, for example through regular ‘check-ins’ or reviews on a termly or annual basis.
  • Schools must be prepared to respond to evolving needs of their students.