Blaming women for GP workforce crisis doesn't stack up, says top GP

Growing numbers of women entering general practice should be praised for saving the profession from collapse rather than blamed for the GP workforce crisis, a senior GP has said.

GPC and Medical Women's Federation member Dr Farah Jameel
GPC and Medical Women's Federation member Dr Farah Jameel

Criticism aimed at women GPs, claiming they contribute to workforce problems by seeking part-time and sessional work, represent ‘a very narrow and outdated point of view’ GPC member Dr Farah Jameel said.

Speaking to GPonline ahead of the Medical Women’s Federation (MWF)’s centenary celebration which begins on Wednesday, she said that men were also increasingly choosing to work part-time to cope with rising workload.

Dr Jameel, a council member of the MWF, said the role of a GP has changed significantly over the last 20-30 years, and the move to part-time working was ‘a sign of the times’, not a gender-specific issue.

GP workload

The health needs of patients and disease management have become ‘enormously different’ – which comes hand-in-hand with additional workload burden, she added.

Efforts should be focused on better workforce planning giving consideration to the needs of the workforce, rather than apportioning blame that could be adding to the workforce crisis, she warned.

‘The job is just too intense, it’s too hard and burnout is rife – and it’s not a women only issue,’ she told GPonline. ‘Portfolio working and part-time flexible careers are seen as a solution and a way to maintain balance in one’s career.

‘There has been so much criticism about women GPs hurting the NHS – we would be wise to remember that the first female doctor only qualified 152 years ago. Fast forward to 2017 where the majority of GPs are women, and their contribution is surely something that ought to be celebrated.

‘Blaming women for the downfall of general practice is a very narrow point of view.

Future general practice

‘The alternative view point needs to be considered – where would we be today if women had not contributed to the workforce? That’s the way to think about this – workforce problems would have been far worse. We've seen a monumental rise in women choosing the medical profession.’

‘The issues surrounding workforce are far deeper and represent much more complex problems such as low levels of funding, recurrent reorganisations of healthcare and growing workload. Rather than this endless expectation to commit more hours of the day professionally, what we need to look at is how we address the workforce needs of today whilst we look at innovative ways to address workload.’

Technological advances in particular could benefit women working in general practice in the future, Dr Jameel said.

‘With the way general practice is changing, we have the opportunity to do a lot more,’ she said. ‘Perhaps going forward, the average GP working day will look very different – it could have an element of working from home with telephone or decision tree triage, or email and Skype consultations.

‘At the same time, such ways of working need to be recognised and structured as part of a normal working day – not extra hours on top of the day job. Improved flexible working and a recognition that technology has the ability to change and influence the way we transact in the future will be enabling for all – patients and doctors.’

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