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03.04.19

Urgent inquiry launched after senior female doctors blow the whistle on harassment and ‘institutional sexism’ within the BMA

The BMA has launched an urgent investigation into sexual harassment after a number of allegations made by female doctors reveal a culture of “institutional sexism” within the “dinosaur-infested depths of GP politics.”

Two senior doctors on the BMA’s GP Committee (GPC) have said it is “time to open the lid on this outdated culture” after claiming that a tide of sexism, bullying and unfair treatment are pushing women leaders out of the profession.

The article by Dr Zoe Norris and Dr Katie Bramall-Stainer in GP Online comes after hundreds of colleagues contacted them after Bramall-Stainer complained last month about being called a “naughty girl” and “little girl” by a member of the committee before giving a speech in Belfast last month.

A number of other female GPC members have reported sexist behaviour within the BMA, with one doctor saying a male colleague sent her an unsolicited naked photo and another who overheard “two senior people on GPC braying loudly their guesstimated bra size of a key committee member.”

Responding to the articles, the BMA council chair Chaand Nagpaul said he was “appalled to hear of the treatment of my colleagues” and announced that an urgent investigation was being launched in response to the allegations.

He said: “I want to say I’m sorry to them, and offer my heartfelt apologies on behalf of the whole association.

“Abusive behaviour has no place in the BMA and I recognise the courage that it takes to come forward with such allegations and so I thank them for that. It is vital that we take decisive action to make positive changes.”

In the article, Dr Norris said she was stepping down from the committee, stating: “I have never experienced the level of sexism and discrimination in my entire career that I have in the GPC.”

Both Norris and Bramall-Stainer have held prominent GPC roles, but both said “we won’t in the future largely because of the experiences we have had at the hands of some colleagues in those roles.”

They described the codes of conduct in place as “intimidating, accusatory and unsupportive,” and stated: “There must be a wholesale culture shift away from drinking and dinners, taps on the shoulder to take on roles, under-the-breath comments, factions and back-stabbing.

“We have to make sure those who represent the profession, reflect the profession; and embrace diversity by offering all GPs the same opportunities. Most importantly, there must be a genuine objective process for challenging and addressing such behaviours.”

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