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Appendix – the legal position

  1. 126. When a mental health condition means that a student is classified as being disabled under the Equality Act 2010, their medical school has a duty to make reasonable adjustments.
  2. 127. Mental health conditions may be considered to be disabilities under the Act. The legal definition of a disability in the Act is:

‘A person (P) has a disability if –

    1. a. P has a physical or mental impairment, and
    2. b. the impairment has a substantial and long-term adverse effect on P’s ability to carry out normal day-to-day activities.’
  1. 128. As this is a legal definition, it is ultimately for a court or tribunal to decide who it applies to. If a school is not sure whether the definition applies to an individual, it is best practice to assume that it does apply and to focus on finding reasonable adjustments to support them.
  2. 129. The Act also defines when a disability is classed as long-term:

‘The effect of an impairment is long-term if:

    1. a. it has lasted for at least 12 months
    2. b. it is likely to last for at least 12 months, or
    3. c. it is likely to last for the rest of the life of the person affected.’
    4. A ‘substantial’ adverse effect is defined by the Act as one that is ‘more than minor or trivial’.
  1. 130. Some conditions are not explicitly covered by the Act – such as substance misuse and addictions. However, medical schools should still support students with these conditions.* When the effects of an addiction become a physical or a recognised mental health issue, they may then be covered by the Act and medical schools would need to make reasonable adjustments.


* Promoting excellence: standards for medical education and training, R3.2 (accessed 30 July 2015).