Health minister 'clarifies' women GPs 'burden' claim

Health minister Anna Soubry has moved to 'clarify' comments she made in support of an MP who said training women to become GPs placed a 'great burden' on the NHS.

Ms Soubry: Comments not derogatory (Photo: Foreign and Commonwealth Office)
Ms Soubry: Comments not derogatory (Photo: Foreign and Commonwealth Office)

Anne McIntosh MP (Con, Thirsk and Malton) had claimed on Wednesday that it was a ‘tremendous burden’ to train women GPs if they went part-time soon after qualifying.

Ms Soubry had said the MP made a 'very important point' about the 'unintended consequences' of training women to be doctors, but later clarified her remarks saying they were 'not intended to be derogatory'.

The minister issued the clarification after widespread criticism and media coverage of her remarks. RCGP chairwoman Professor Clare Gerada said on Twitter that there needs to be a ‘sensible debate about workforce in general practice’.  ‘But we mustn't assume that women are a problem,’ she added.

In debate on NHS 111, Ms McIntosh told the House of Commons: ‘It is a controversial thing to say, but perhaps I as a woman can say this; 70% of medical students currently are women and they are very well-educated and very well-qualified. When they go into practice and then in the normal course of events will marry and have children, they often want to go part-time and it is obviously a tremendous burden training what effectively might be two GPs working part-time where they are ladies.’

Ms Soubry replied: ‘You make a very important point when you talk about, rightly, the good number of women who are training to be doctors but the unintended consequences.’

Later, the DH issued a statement from Ms Soubry to ‘clarify’ her earlier remarks. She said: ‘I fully support women GPs, my comments were not intended to be derogatory and I was responding to a point made by another MP during the debate.

‘As the head of the RCGP also recently pointed out - some female GPs work part-time due to families. The solution is that we need to increase the number of GPs and we are doing that.

‘This government supports good working practices such as flexible working, job sharing and part-time working, which help retain female doctors.’

There has been a 66% rise in the number of female GPs in the past decade, and last year 62% of England's GP registrars were women.

* Money Talks blog: Aristotle, health ministers and the burden of women GPs

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