Dr Zoe Norris and Dr Katie Bramall-Stainer said it was time to call out the 'misogynistic behaviour' of those leading the profession
Female doctors have accused senior members of the British Medical Association of sending unsolicited naked pictures and joking about women’s bra sizes, amid a culture of “institutional sexism”.
Medics said they were speaking up as part of the #metoo movement, warning that they had suffered harassment, sexism and discriminatory behaviour which must be stamped out.
Women on the BMA’s committees said they had been called “naughty girls” and other belittling names, describing incidents in which senior women had been groped and sexually propositioned.
In an article for GP online, two female doctors from the BMA’s GP committee said it was time to “open the lid” on an outdated culture which had forced out many women who should have progressed.
Dr Zoe Norris and Dr Katie Bramall-Stainer said it was time to call out the “misogynistic behaviour” of those leading the profession, recounting a string of incidents.
One woman on the 77-strong GP committee (GPC) was reported to feel unable to attend events away from home without a family member to accompany her, after being propositioned by a male colleague.
Another doctor said a male colleague had sent her a naked photograph of himself, unsolicited.
And another overheard two senior committee members attempting to guess the bra size of a female committee member.
Dr Norris said: “I have never experienced the level of sexism and discrimination in my entire career that I have in the GPC.”
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Although female GPs outnumber male GPs in the NHS ,women are outnumbered two to one on the committee representing them.
In an article for GP online, the two doctors said: “The time is now to blow open the lid on this outdated culture and give credence and time to those whose voices have been silenced: the lost leaders.”
They said female GPs had been “sexually explicit propositioned after presenting a keynote speech,” frozen out of key events and subjected to innuendo and groping.
Calling for a wholesale shift away from a sexist culture, they describe: “The squeezing of the thighs. The patting of the bottoms. The incessant nudge-nudge, wink-wink more suitably placed within a 1970s Monty Python sketch.
“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,” they write.
Dr Norris said she had avoided ‘naming and shaming’ colleagues over sexism because of fears over how she would be treated, and about how she would be perceived.
In the article, they said: “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.”
Last month Dr Bramall-Stainer said a very senior member of the BMA committee had called her a “naughty girl” just before she took to the stage to co-chair a conference last month.
Dr Chaand Nagpaul, BMA chairman, said: “I am appalled to hear of the treatment my colleagues describe and of similarly unacceptable behaviours.”
“’I want to say I’m sorry for them, and offer my heartfelt apologies on behalf of the whole association.”
Dr Nagpaul, a GP who led the GPC committee until becoming chairman of the BMA, promised to launch an urgent investigation into the allegations.
He said: “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.
“In order to be truly representative we cannot afford to lose valued members as a result of inappropriate behaviour going unchallenged, and ultimately, it will be the profession that loses out if we do.
“Let me be clear – sexist, disrespectful, discriminatory and abusive behaviour will not be tolerated in this association and must be stamped out.”
Dr Nikita Kanani, NHS England’s medical director of primary care, said: “The behaviours described by some of my colleagues belong firmly in the past. They have no place in our profession, and no place in our leadership, and we will not stand for ‘everyday sexism’.”