BMA inquiry 'must not be limited to sexism and sexual harassment'

GPs who have spoken out about a 'sexist culture' within the BMA have called for the scope of an urgent inquiry set to begin this month to be widened beyond sexism and sexual harassment.

The BMA set out the terms of reference and scope of an investigation late last month, after GPonline published an article by two leading GPs exposing problems with the culture in the BMA alongside further coverage of women's experiences of sexist comments, harassment and exclusion.

The BMA said the process will 'investigate the allegations made by members (and past members) of the BMA GP committee, as reported in the media, in relation to sexism and sexual harassment in the BMA'.

But four leading women GPs who are current and former members of the BMA's GP committee - Dr Zoe Norris, Dr Katie Bramall-Stainer, Dr Stephanie deGiorgio and Dr Amy Small - all of whom have spoken out about the culture within the BMA, have called for the scope of the investigation to be widened.

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Harassment, exclusion and innuendo: women frozen out by 'sexist BMA culture'

In a letter to BMA chair Dr Chaand Nagpaul, the GPs highlight 'four key concerns' about the planned investigation, warning that their 'direct experience is that it is impossible to separate other types of bullying and inappropriate behaviour towards women from more explicit sexual harassment'.

The four GPs write: 'We therefore need reassurance that the inquiry will encompass a more broad definition of poor behaviour, as we are concerned this narrow definition will reduce the number of colleagues who feel able to report behaviour to the inquiry; something we are sure the BMA does not wish to do.'

The letter argues that the invesitigation should cover 'a review of internal communications within the BMA', a review of 'how appointments have been and are currently made to positions of responsibility when there is no election process', and incorporate experiences in other settings including 'face-to-face informal and formal events outside BMA meetings'.

BMA investigation

The GPs also call for assurances that doctors who are no longer BMA members will not be excluded, for more information on how findings will be shared with all BMA members and with those who give evidence, and for clarity on how evidence will be handled.

The letter warns: 'Those who disclose information to the inquiry will need to know what will happen as a result of their disclosure. Some of those involved may be very senior members of the organisation, meaning that some of those affected may fear retribution from speaking out. This needs to be clarified so doctors and staff feel able to come forward and speak freely.'

The BMA has invited bids from organisations or people to lead the investigation - which is expected to begin this month and be completed within two months.

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