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Standards for health services in Australian prisons

Criterion 5.1.3 Physical access

Our health service provides appropriate physical access to our premises and clinical services, including access for people with disabilities.


A. There is wheelchair access to our health service and its facilities (direct observation)
If physical access to our health service is limited, we provide visits to patients’ living quarters subject to suitable safety and security (interview).

B. Our staff can describe how they facilitate access to our health service for patients with disabilities (interview).

C. Our health service has a height adjustable bed.


Good physical access to the health service’s facilities and clinical services is important for patients. Health services need to make all reasonable efforts to facilitate physical access to their premises and clinical services.

When considering what is reasonable in terms of access, health services should consider the needs of patients with a disability. The health service may take a range of steps to assist patients with a disability, such as having pictorial signage for patients who are illiterate; spaces in waiting areas, hallways and consultation rooms that are wide enough for patients in wheelchairs; and a unisex wheelchair accessible toilet for patients with disabilities.

The RACGP has been involved in ongoing discussions with consumer bodies, the disability sector and the Australian Human Rights Commission with respect to improving access to high quality healthcare for people with a disability.

Height adjustable beds are especially necessary for patients with limited mobility and the RACGP has therefore determined that each accredited health service must have one or more height adjustable beds.

Height adjustable beds may assist health service teams as follows:

  • reduce the risks associated with patients getting on and off the examination couch especially for people with impaired mobility
  • reduce the risk of misdiagnosis or nondetection of serious medical conditions through difficulty in conducting an examination that may occur if a patient is not able to be examined on a standard examination couch
  • reduce the risk of health service staff injuring themselves when examining patients, or assisting patients on and off an examination couch
  • reduce risks associated with the health service’s legal responsibilities under the Disability Discrimination Act 1992 to ensure people with a disability have equal access to the same range and quality of medical care as others.

Health services need to consider where a height adjustable bed may be best located (eg. in a treatment room rather than a consultation room).

In exceptional circumstances where physical space is limited and a height adjustable bed cannot be accommodated, the health service needs to be able to demonstrate why it cannot accommodate a height adjustable bed and how the health service safely manages examinations of patients with impaired mobility while protecting the occupational health and safety of clinical staff.

The disability sector has had experts review height adjustable beds available currently on the market to ensure they meet the needs of people with disabilities. Simple functional specifications for appropriate beds are available at

For more information relating to the Federal Disability Discrimination Act 1992 and legislation regarding the right to access primary healthcare, the website is recommended.

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