Official figures from the GMC's GP register show the extent to which the profession is set to be dominated by women in the coming years, and reveal increasing diversity overall in the GP workforce.
Among GP trainees across the UK, 69% are now women, figures from the GMC’s annual state of medical education and practice (SOMEP) report
GPonline reported that UK female GPs rose to outnumber their male counterparts for the first time in history in March 2014, after their numbers swelled by over 50% in a decade.
But the GMC data show that women now represent 63% of GPs under 40, 56% of GPs aged 40-49 and 37% of those over 50. Female GP trainees outnumber males more than two to one, and altogether women account for just over 50% of the profession UK-wide.
Although there are more female medical students than male overall, these numbers mark a contrast to other medical professions which remain largely male dominated. Some 72% of surgeons in training are male, as are 56% of opthalmologists.
Female GP workforce
The figures also show that the GP profession is becoming more ethnically diverse. The number of black and minority ethnic (BME) GPs has risen by almost a quarter (22%) since 2010, compared to a profession-wide increase of just 4%.
RCGP chairwoman Dr Maureen Baker said: ‘Women in medicine make a huge contribution to the NHS at all levels and I’m immensely proud that general practice is leading the way in terms of gender equality. This is one area where our health service is streets ahead of the corporate world and ultimately it is our patients who will benefit from a diverse workforce.
‘It is encouraging to know that our profession is seen as a stimulating and progressive career option for both women and men. But we desperately need more GPs – of any gender – to meet the demands of our growing and ageing population.’
GMC chief executive Niall Dickson said: ‘The fact that medicine is becoming a more balanced workforce with women moving into all branches of the profession should be a cause of celebration. For a host of reasons having a diverse workforce which reflects the UK’s population must be the goal.’
Dr Sophie Crampin, a GP registrar in her final year of training, told GPonline general practice offers women a flexible and rewarding career - one that she would 'absolutely recommend to others'.
'General practice is very attractive to women,' she said. 'It allows for a better lifestyle balance from an earlier stage in your career, which helps in managing a family. It also really relies on the empathetic side of medicine.'
She welcomed the rise of women GPs, but added that the profession should not become too female dominated, as many patients would be more comfortable seeking help from a male doctor for certain problems. A 'balanced' workforce was best, she said.
Photo: JH Lancy