Recently I was representing a medical student who had been excluded from Medical School for failure to progress.

The student in question had a disability and as per the disability was entitled to extra time during examinations. The extra time had been implemented during written components of the exams, however no adjustments to timings were made for the oral component of the exams (known as the OSCE).

In a number of Medical Schools across the country no allowance for extra time have been made for disabled students in the OSCEs. I have come across varying reasons from logistically it is impossible (I am not sure how the Equality Act 2010 would review that reason), to the standard being tested is such that a medical student needs to be able to review a patient in a set timeframe and that is the standard being examined.

I do not know about you, but I would not mind my Doctor taking their time to take a history of my medical condition and making a fully informed diagnosis of my condition. I know there will be times when snap decisions will need to be made (A&E maybe??), but in those such circumstances it is unlikely that the decision would be made by someone in isolation without input from others.  

Legally the purpose of the Equality Act is to place all students on an equal footing. By virtue of the Act disabled students are often allowed some form of reasonable adjustment during exams to ensure that they are assessed fairly and equally to those without disabilities. If you are not going to allow a disabled student a reasonable adjustment then you need to demonstrate that there is a legitimate aim for not allowing the adjustment (in this case extra time during OSCEs). Usually the legitimate aim to not allow an adjustment would be meeting the standard and/or maintaining academic standard, however the way of achieving this still needs to be proportionate and by that we mean appropriate and necessary. The part Medical Schools often forget to assess is the adverse impact on disabled medical students if they do not allow the extra time for OSCEs. Typically OSCEs are there to examine a medical student’s ability to take a full history, diagnose and then to present their findings.  

I was only recently at a Medical School hearing where I was advised by the Medical School that to overcome the issue of extra time the Medical School were now allowing for 10 minutes per station as oppose to the usual 8 minutes for all students. Not sure that is in fitting with placing disabled and non-disabled students on an equal footing… I must say I am a little perplexed with this resolution to the issue.

I have found I am arguing this area with more and more effective results.

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