BMA urges prime minister to retract women GPs 'burden' claim

The BMA has urged the government to retract comments by Conservative MPs who suggested female doctors were 'a burden' on the NHS because many work part-time.

Dr Helena McKeown: part-timers often work more than half day
Dr Helena McKeown: part-timers often work more than half day

GPC member Dr Helena McKeown called for the retraction at the BMA’s annual representative meeting in Edinburgh, after comments by health minister Anna Soubry and fellow MP Anne McIntosh (Con, Thirsk and Malton) earlier this month.

Ms Soubry was forced to 'clarify' comments in support of McIntosh, who said training women to become GPs placed a 'great burden' on the NHS if they went part-time soon after qualifying.

BMA members today demanded further action. Dr McKeown told the conference that many doctors work part-time in order to perform other NHS duties such as commissioning or appraising. ‘We all do more than half,’ she said. Many part-time doctors working a half day finish work at 4pm, ‘long after the school day is finished’, she added.

Consultant Dr Eleanor Draeger said: ‘Those MPs are a disgrace. Part-time doctors who are carers, aren’t they doing what the government wants them to do?

‘Isn’t that a good thing to have doctors who are looking after children and also looking after patients?’

She received a large round of applause when she asked the conference if BMA chairman Dr Porter was a burden on the NHS because he worked part time.

Dr Porter told delegates: ‘It is absolutely important to say that we are all burdens in our own way but that diversity is to be celebrated. Women have their place in medicine just as they have in parliament.’

The motion said: 'This meeting is outraged at suggestions that training female doctors or part-time doctors is a tremendous burden and a strain on the NHS or an excuse for the crisis in attendances in emergency departments. We demand this is refuted by the MPs who reportedly made such statements and retracted by the prime minister or secretary of state for health, to set the record straight.’

A DH spokesman said: 'No government minister has ever said female doctors are a burden on the health service and to suggest so is wrong. It’s vital the NHS workforce represents the patients it serves, which is why we’re actively encouraging more female clinical leaders and better flexible working such as job-sharing and part-time hours.'

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