Disabled NHS Staff at the Crossroads


15 / 9 / 2014 8am

This month the Equality and Diversity Team are focusing on disability. This week we have a blogs from Professor Anil Jain, Consultant Radiologist at University Hospital of South Manchester NHS Foundation Trust who talks about his vision for a fairer and more disability-friendly NHS.

The all-encompassing Equality Act was introduced in 2010 to protect discrimination on the basis of race, gender, disability etc. The intention was to bring everything under one umbrella to provide more effective protection. Unfortunately the reverse has happened with the weakening of equal opportunity particularly for disabled staff in the NHS.

The protection of disabled NHS staff requires a very supportive approach from colleagues as well as managers. They should have an innovative and proactive approach when making reasonable adjustments in the workplace and offer time off for disability related leave to support treatment and rehabilitation. Furthermore, considerable effort is required in protecting pay, terms and conditions, promotion and rewarding of disabled NHS staff, so there is equality and inclusion.

I think staff are afraid to declare their disability for fear of demotion, stigma of being sighted as underperforming, potential redundancies or loss of job.  Interestingly, disability discrimination is not only confined to administrative and paramedical staff but also include senior medical staff.

In January 2014 NHS Employers issued an essential disability guidance to support NHS staff. I believe this guidance should become the basis for disability awareness training for all NHS managers, so they can proactively support disabled staff members and other staff so they don't discriminate against their colleagues. Above all, the training would ensure that disabled staff members were aware of all the support available and what they can do if they face disability discrimination. This will help address deep rooted stigma faced by disabled staff.

I believe NHS Employers have taken a very positive initial step towards helping to eliminate disability discrimination but there is still a considerable amount of work to be done. This may include positively highlighting and rewarding employers who have gone over and above this essential guidance.

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