Disabled dilemma

May 5, 2000

Regarding nurse trainees ("Will life improve for nurse trainees?" THES, April 28), one group of diploma nurse trainees is among the worst off. Many nurses have disabilities and operate effectively with the right working conditions and equipment. But these are unavailable in training due to the funding system.

Unlike any other government-funded undergraduate students, including nursing degree students, those on diploma courses in professions allied to medicine cannot get disabled students allowances to cover any extra cost they face because of their disability. Many disabled people contact us about problems financing their training, for example:

* A partially deaf student on a diploma course needed hearing aids and an amplified stethoscope but was unable to purchase either because no financial help was available

* A dyslexic diploma nursing student was advised to use a voice-activated PC for academic work. The student was unable to afford one.

These costs may seem slight in relation to the National Health Service's training budget, but they may be prohibitive to trainees who already suffer the same financial hardship as other students. A diploma student is forced to decide between funding disability-support needs, paying for rent or food or dropping out. The problem is compounded as they cannot use the institution's access fund or the NHS hardship fund.

Why, given the shortage of nurses, are disabled people denied training for want of a simple item of equipment or human support?

Sophie Corlett Policy director (higher education) Skill: National Bureau for Students with Disabilities

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