This paper is a report of the findings of a General Formal Investigation launched by the Disability Rights Commission, Great Britain into the impact of regulatory fitness standards on disabled people, and on nursing students and nurses in particular.Background
The potential for systemic discrimination against disabled nursing professionals lies in the existence and nature of regulatory fitness standards, as well as in how these are interpreted and implemented in practice.Methods
A review of relevant legislation, regulation and guidance was conducted to explore the interaction of the regulatory framework with the Disability Discrimination Act. A formal call to key national stakeholder organizations solicited information on perceptions of the regulatory framework and the adequacy of guidance issued. Independent research was commissioned on disabled people's disclosure of disability, informal and formal decision-making around fitness within the educational, and employment contexts. An Inquiry Panel examined all evidence sources, solicited further oral evidence from key organizations, and developed recommendations.Findings
No mention was found of the Disability Discrimination Act in any regulation and guidance governing nursing prior to 2006. There are particular requirements for ‘good health and good character’. Respondents from key national stakeholder organizations, higher educational institutions and employers struggle to interpret the fitness requirements consistently. Implementation is variable, with reliance on ad hoc self-initiated strategies. The variability of interpretation and implementation can lead to discrimination against disabled people.Conclusion
The imprecision of fitness requirements and variability of implementation raise serious doubts about their utility in managing risk.