Junior doctors who have disabilities that mean they need specialist equipment to do their jobs should be allowed to keep it for the duration of their training rather than having to reapply every time they move between NHS trusts, the British Medical Association has said.
Currently, specialist equipment supplied under the government’s Access to Work scheme is owned by the junior doctor’s employer, which means they must reapply for this support every time they move between trusts during their training.
A wide range of specialist equipment is covered by the scheme, including wheelchairs, specialist stethoscopes, and hearing aids. But it all must be returned by the doctor when they move on, which the BMA said was “burdensome”.
It described the current funding system as “confusing, inefficient and unfair” to those affected, and explained there was no practical or financial sense in returning the equipment once the doctor had relocated, as it was often personalised to that doctor’s needs.
Dr Hannah Barham-Brown, deputy co-chair of the BMA junior doctors committee, commented: “For doctors who are disabled, it is not their disabilities holding them back in training, but this fragmented system and needless bureaucracy involved in supplying essential equipment that is making their jobs far more difficult than they need to be.
“Doctors living with a disability have much to offer the medical profession. Having frequently found themselves on the other end of the stethoscope, their own experience of being a patient can benefit their medical practice, improving the way they interact with patients and understand what they are going through.”
She said many disabled people were discouraged from entering the medical profession because they were not adequately supported during their training.
“The government and NHS need to recognise disabled doctors not as burdens but as the assets they are, and improving support and resources will go some way in building a medical workforce that is more reflective of the world around us,” she added.