BMA U-turn over sexism and harassment debate at annual conference

Doctors' leaders will debate claims that the BMA fails to address sexism and harassment seriously at its annual conference this week after a U-turn by officials.

GPonline has learned that a motion put forward by the BMA's Buckinghamshire division - which also warns that doctors are 'actively discouraged' from reporting concerns over sexism and harassment under the current BMA complaints system - will now be debated in full.

The motion was supplanted in the conference agenda published last month with a motion drawn up by a BMA committee, leading to accusations that the association seemed keen to 'brush under the carpet' concerns about a 'sexist culture'. The BMA was forced to apologise earlier this year and promise an investigation after senior women in its GP committee spoke out about sexism and sexual harassment.

The BMA confirmed that the motion that set to be debated at its 2019 annual representative meeting (ARM) in Belfast this week, will not be the one listed in the conference agenda.

BMA conference

Three BMA divisions proposed motions on sexism and harassment for the 2019 annual representative meeting (ARM), which takes place in Belfast this week. In addition to the Buckinghamshire motion, a Tower Hamlets motion called for the BMA's complaints process to become 'wholly independent'.

A further 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.

But until the eleventh-hour U-turn by officials, none of these motions were set to be debated - with a debate scheduled instead on a motion drawn up by a BMA committee. The agenda committee version invited 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.

Speaking last month, Buckinghamshire GP Dr Matt Mayer criticised the motion that appeared in the conference agenda, warning that 'words missed out speak louder than the words left in'.

Sexism investigation

Confirmation of the U-turn comes just days after the first doctors began giving evidence to the sexism and harassment investigation.

Daphne Romney QC, the top lawyer leading the investigation, has invited doctors wishing to report concerns - both current and former members of the BMA - to contact the investigation by email at dr.investigation@cloisters.com.

Read the Buckinghamshire motion in full:

That this meeting...

(i) believes that the current BMA in house complaints system is unfit for purpose.

(ii) believes that members with valid complaints are actively discouraged from raising a concern due to the current BMA complaints system.

(iii) believes that sexism and harassment are not seriously addressed by the BMA.

(iv) welcomes the announcement of an external independent investigation into recent complaints about sexism and harassment , as long as the investigator has the confidence of the complainants.

(v) expects the findings of the recently announced external investigation into sexism and harassment within the BMA to be published and any recommendations to improve the complaints process to be implemented.

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