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GMC offers new guidance for disabled students

Guidance will increase support for people with disabilities to train in medicine

Louise Prime

Friday, 12 November 2010

The General Medical Council (GMC) has issued new guidance to help address the large discrepancy between the proportion of people with disabilities in the UK generally, and in those training to become doctors.

Only 5.9% of medical and dental students declare a disability, against 18.6% of working-age people in the UK as a whole.

The revised guidance Advising medical schools: encouraging disabled students has been produced by the GMC in close collaboration with representatives of medical schools and disability experts, to improve the support offered to disabled students who want to access medical education.

As well as setting out the knowledge, skills and behaviours that students must learn at medical school and how schools should educate and support students, the latest guidance also incorporates changes resulting from the new Equality Act 2010.

The GMC says although the guidance has been written for medical schools, it should also be useful to prospective and existing medical students with disabilities.

Advising medical schools highlights adjustments that have already been put in place by medical schools, for example stethoscopes linked to display screens, enhanced lighting to facilitate lip reading, written materials being available in audio format and extra time in written or oral exams.

The University of Aberdeen’s admissions procedure now gives all medical applicants and students access to occupational health services, to identify the need for any reasonable adjustments for students as well as assess any potential risk to patients.

Professor Jim McKillop, chair of the GMC Undergraduate Board and a member of the working group that reviewed the guidance, said: “It is really encouraging to see more individuals with a disability seeking entrance to medical school and schools making appropriate adjustments to accommodate their needs, as for many years unnecessary barriers have stopped them from pursuing a medical career.

“Diversity in the medical profession is clearly beneficial to individuals, patients and the profession itself and there is no reason why, with the help of reasonable adjustments, more disabled students should not be able to demonstrate their knowledge, skills and abilities through a medical career.”

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