According to NHS Employers, there are currently 31,322 people who have disclosed and identified themselves as disabled and employed in the NHS, which represents 2.6 per cent of the workforce.
Of those who responded to a recent survey, 41% felt their progression at work was hampered by their disability and worryingly, 1 in 5 chose not to disclose their status for fear of the consequences to their career.
These figures are especially concerning considering that disability need not automatically be a barrier to someone becoming a member of nursing staff, nor impair the work they do. The RCN and NMC have made clear that disability does not always means that a nurse is not fit to practice.
How employers respond and support disabled staff is crucial, as most will acquire their disability in the course of their working life. This includes being aware of and open to the adjustments that can be made to support staff at work and the services and funding that are available to work out what is needed.
The RCN has supported the development of guidance on disability at work in the NHS. This highlights good practice advice for the management of disabled staff in relation to sickness absence, carers leave and redeployment to help organisations meet with their duties under the Equality Act 2010.
A key element includes differentiating between sickness absence and disability related absence so that disabled staff do not unnecessarily fall foul of strict absence management monitoring procedures.
Creating supportive workplaces for all colleagues, regardless of disability, is one way in which we’ll ensure the health care profession leads the way in inclusive working environments.