BMA probe as female GPs accuse colleagues of sexism

The British Medical Association (BMA) has launched an investigation after senior female GPs accused colleagues of sexism.

Medics have reported being belittled, having their thighs and buttocks fondled, being propositioned and having senior male colleagues trying to guess bra sizes.

In an article for GP online, two senior doctors demanded an end to “incessant nudge-nudge, wink-wink more suitably placed within a 1970s Monty Python sketch”.

Katie Bramall-Stainer – who co-chaired the BMA’s UK local medical committees (LMCs) conference – wrote the article with colleague Zoe Norris, who has held the role of chairwoman of the sessional GP subcommittee.

Dr Bramall-Stainer previously said that just before walking on to stage to lead the LMCs conference she had been called a “naughty girl” and a “little girl” by a “very senior member of conference”.

Dr Norris responded by saying: “Sadly at the same event also told I had been ‘naughty’ as feedback from my conference speech from a senior male GPC (general practice committee) member.”

In the GP online article, they wrote: “Both of us have held prominent GPC roles; we won’t in the future, largely because of the experiences we have had at the hands of some colleagues in those roles.

“Zoe is stepping down. Katie’s role is now representing LMC conference.”

The women said they had received a huge amount of support and heard many reports of similar experiences.

“Some verbal; many physical. All unwelcome. All damaging. We are not isolated cases,” they wrote. “These too, need and deserve a voice and a chance to be heard.”

They said senior male colleagues tried to guess the bra size of a female colleague, and how a female LMC chief executive “was sexually explicitly propositioned after presenting a keynote speech”.

They added: “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.”

In a statement to GP online, Chaand Nagpaul, chairman of the BMA, said: “I am appalled to hear of the treatment my colleagues describe and of similarly unacceptable behaviours.

“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.

“Let me be clear – sexist, disrespectful, discriminatory and abusive behaviour will not be tolerated in this association and must be stamped out.

“It is vital that we take decisive action to make positive changes. Which is why we will be launching an urgent investigation in response to today’s allegations, and we are reaching out to affected members to invite them to be an integral part of this.

“We would also ask any member who feels they have experienced discriminatory or abusive behaviour to contact us.”