GPC must become more representative, senior GPs warn

Women and sessional GPs face unfair barriers to senior roles in the GPC, senior GPC members have warned.

Dr Vicky Weeks
Dr Vicky Weeks

GPC leaders have accepted that they ‘clearly need to do more’ to ensure leadership proportionately represents the profession, after top women GPs warned there was not currently a level playing field.

The composition of the GPC differs to the profession at large. While over half of GPs overall are women, only 32% of GPC members are. Salaried and locum GPs are also underrepresented.

‘We have to start looking at how we address this balance,’ Dr Vicky Weeks, an executive member on the GPC's sessional GP subcommittee, told GPonline.

‘Where we’re at at the moment, keeping the status quo, is not an option anymore. We do have to represent all our GPs. We need to get more younger GPs, we need to be more ethnically diverse and we certainly need to address the gender gap.’

GPC representation

Her comments come after GPs at the LMCs conference 2017 rejected a motion – proposed by Dr Weeks  calling for a significant shake-up of how GPC leadership is elected.

The motion, which called for 'proportionate representation' of principals, salaried and locum GPs and representation that 'mirrors the genders of the constituent members of the profession', was lost after several GPs spoke out against positive discrimination. Dr Weeks said she could see both sides of the argument, but was surprised by the strength of feeling against these measures.

‘The BMA has done some work on positive discrimination, but it was viewed very negatively,' she said. 'I'm surprised it’s viewed so negatively, actually. Other industries have introduced a positive discrimination policy to get representation on their boards.

‘We’re not saying we should promote some useless person on the board – it’s just about giving them the opportunity to take up a role.

‘We know like votes for like – unless policy is put in place that allows a range of candidates to stand that will be able to represent, I think it’s [not going to change].’

Positive discrimination

Dr Weeks said she had not expected the motion to pass, given it was a contentious issue and had been bundled as a composite motion including some other controversial plans to change how GPC members were elected.

But she added it was important to raise the issue and hoped it would ‘get the ball rolling’ in discussions on representation. The topic is scheduled to be raised again later this month at the BMA annual representative meeting.

GPC member Dr Fay Wilson passionately supported the motion at the LMC conference, warning the current situation ‘was not good enough’.

She rejected the arguments of GPs who argued GPC members should be elected solely for their ability without feeling they had won a place due to their gender, ethnicity or role.

‘I was saying this 30 years ago,’ she told the conference. ‘It’s not election by merit, it’s election by habit. If it was election by merit, where are all the meritorious women I've worked with and known over the years?’

Dr Weeks said the issue must be addressed to ensure there is a ‘level playing field’ for sessional and women GPs to have the opportunity to represent the wider GP workforce.

GPC deputy chair Dr Richard Vautrey agreed the GPC had work to do to address its gender balance.

He said: ‘The GPC works hard to encourage all GPs to engage in its work and would want any GP to feel able to stand for election to the committee.

‘We've taken steps last year to co-opt an additional member of the LMC conference who has only recently qualified and together with representatives from the ARM we do have a number of active and valued younger members.

‘The number of sessional GPs on the committee has also increased and we've now a sessional GP as members of the executive team as well as a thriving sessional GP subcommittee. We clearly need to do more to address the gender balance within the committee and we'd welcome the views of female GPs as to what more we could do to enable them to stand for election.’

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