Doctors with Disabilities

Approximately 11 million adults in the UK have a disability (approximately one in five of the adult population). Therefore, it is not surprising that quite a number of doctors come into this category. Increasing numbers of NHS organisations are realising the benefits of employing disabled staff. Doing so increases the diversity of the workplace and if you have a disability, as a doctor, it may mean you are better able to relate to the patient’s experiences.


Disclosing Disability

You do not have a legal obligation to disclose a disability, unless there are health and safety issues either for yourself or for your colleagues due to your condition. If this is the case, then you are obliged to inform your employer under the Health and Safety Act (1974). The GMC produces the Good Medical Practice (GMP) Guide and this also has some directives on looking after your own health that take into account patient safety. The GMP guide says ‘If you know that you have, or think that you might have, a serious condition that you could pass on to patients, or if your judgment or performance could be affected by a condition or its treatment, you must consult a suitably qualified colleague. You must ask for and follow their advice about investigations, treatment and changes to your practice that they consider necessary. You must not rely on your own assessment of the risk you pose to patients.’  See the GMC website for more information.

Legislation (the Disability Discrimination Act) is in place to help doctors with disabilities and chronic conditions to work, putting the onus on employers to make reasonable adjustments for disabled employees and providing government funding for aids and building modifications (funding follows the employee).


Things that help ill or disabled doctors:

  • Early identification of difficulties faced by individuals and their organisations.
  • Positive and flexible mind set.
  • Good mentoring schemes and good mentors.
  • Flexible working patterns and revision of task allocation.
  • Positive leadership and willingness to discuss difficulties.
  • Use of the Disability Discrimination Act to help with funding and resources.
  • Disabled role models.