Wednesday, 21 October 2009

For people with a physical disability, it is time for a simple change that will provide equality in GP visits

Disability Discrimination Commissioner, Graeme Innes, today called on the Royal College of General Practitioners (RACGP) to ensure equality in access to medical care for people with a disability by making it mandatory for GP surgeries to have height adjustable examination beds.

Commissioner Innes made the call for changes after receiving a report from the Physical Disability Council of NSW (PDCN), which showed that most patients with a physical disability visiting their GP could not get a full examination or screening for possible conditions because they could not get onto the examination table.

“There is no valid reason why people with a physical disability should continue to have lower levels of health care – it is an unacceptable situation,” said Commissioner Innes.

“As this report highlights, there is a continuing problem for people with a physical disability visiting their GP - if you can’t get onto an examination bed, it is so much harder for your GP to conduct a thorough examination or complete screening procedures, and consequently there is a very real danger of receiving lower levels of health care,” Commissioner Innes said.

RACGP is reviewing its GP Standards, which currently encourage GPs to have height-adjustable examination beds, but do not make them mandatory for accreditation.

In 2004, research undertaken by Sheila King, from Access for All Alliance, showed that under
5 % of GP surgeries had height adjustable examination beds. Today, while GP accreditation bodies report that just under 50 % of GP surgeries have an adjustable bed, the experience of PDCN is that less than 20 % of patients have access to them in reality.

“RACGP has worked hard over the past few years to educate its members about the benefits of having height adjustable examination beds for both patients and staff, which has certainly acted to improve the situation,” said Commissioner Innes. “It now has an opportunity to really show some leadership on this issue and use the current review to make height adjustable examination beds mandatory.”

For more information on the campaign to improve access to height adjustable examination beds, including access to research on the consequences for people with a disability, see humanrights.gov.au/disability_rights/health/open0807.htm

For more information on the Physical Disability Council of NSW report on height adjustable examination beds, see www.pdcnsw.org.au

Media contact: Brinsley Marlay 02 9284 9656 or 0430 366 529