BMA accused of bid to 'brush sexism under the carpet'

A motion on sexism and harassment set for debate at this year's BMA annual conference suggests the association wants to 'brush this issue under the carpet', a senior GP has warned.

Dr Matt Mayer, a member of the BMA's Buckinghamshire division and an LMC conference representative at the association's annual conference, has hit out at the wording of a motion that will be debated on sexism and harassment.

Three BMA divisions proposed motions for debate on sexism and harassment at the 2019 annual representative meeting (ARM), which takes place in Belfast in June. The motions were put forward after the BMA apologised and announced an 'urgent investigation' earlier this year in response to senior women GPs who spoke out about their experiences via GPonline.

The Buckinghamshire motion warned that doctors were 'actively discouraged' from reporting concerns over sexism and harassment under the current BMA complaints system. A Tower Hamlets motion, meanwhile, called for the process to become 'wholly independent from the BMA' in future.

Sexism

A motion proposed by Manchester and Salford said 'this meeting is appalled to hear that sexism is alive and well among our representatives' and called for mandatory diversity training for all committee members.

The conference agenda committee has put together a composite motion that draws on the three proposed versions. The motion invites conference to welcome the investigation into sexism and sexual harassment, to call for BMA council to consider the investigation's outcome and report back to members in a timely manner, and for 'implementation of agreed recommendations' not to be delayed.

But Dr Mayer said he was disappointed - and warned that the 'words missed out speak louder than the words left in'.

Dr Mayer said: 'It is disappointing but sadly not surprising that the composite motion bears little similarity with the motions it is supposed to be formed from. When examined closely, the words which are missed out speak louder than the words left in.

Annual conference

'This gives the impression that the BMA really does want to brush this issue under the carpet and would rather leave any difficult discussions out of the debate.

'I understand several people are planning amendments to this motion, which is encouraging. However it's disappointing that such action is even necessary.'

The BMA said it does not comment on conference motions. However, it has said plans for an investigation are 'on track' - with an investigator due to be appointed before the end of May.

Senior GPs who spoke out about sexism within the BMA have also said they are ready to engage with the investigation process after assurances from a top official within the association over how it will work.

The BMA has said the full report on the investigation into sexism and harassment 'cannot be shared with the wider BMA membership due to the need to protect confidentiality of those who provide evidence', but has promised that its key findings and recommendations will be shared in full.

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