Key recommendations from the BMA sexism investigation

A damning report into sexism at the BMA, conducted by top barrister Daphne Romney QC, made 31 recommendations about changes the association could make to tackle the problem.

BMA House (Photo: Malcolm Case-Green)

Ms Romney's report highlighted behaviour including shouting, demeaning women, sexual harassment and bullying that affected female doctors and BMA members of staff. It said that women in the organisation were 'consistently made to feel that they are of less importance and are less capable, than a man'.

The recommendations cover the culture of the organisation, how committees work, highlight the importance of calling out bad behaviour and suggest improvements to the complaints process. On Thursday the organisation tweeted that its leadership team were 'committed to implementing these recommendations in full and are determined that the BMA learns from the findings of this report. We are deeply sorry to anyone who has been affected by these unacceptable behaviours.'

Below are the key recommendations from the report:


  • Every member of the BMA must take responsibility for his or her behaviour and moderate it so as not to insult or denigrate other members.
  • Members of the BMA should realise that the old hierarchical systems in medicine do not apply in the BMA. All doctors are there as colleagues and should be treated with respect.
  • Staff are part of the team and  should be treated with respect. Conversations and interactions should be respectful at all times.
  • Shouting is never acceptable in the workplace.

Calling out bad behaviour

  • Everyone in the BMA should call out bad behaviour when they see it, whether it is harassment, sexual harassment, discrimination or bullying. Ms Romney said it was 'simply unacceptable for this conduct to go unchecked, particularly if the reason for ignoring it is to avoid alienating the perpetrator in order to secure votes to get onto, or stay on, a committee or to achieve higher office'.
  • Staff must be protected from these behaviours and should be empowered to call it out. Where doctors witness a member of staff being harassed, disrespected or bullied, they should intervene, or report it to the independent confidential hotline and/or if appropriate to the chair of committee.
  • Staff should be trained to be able to have difficult conversations with doctors and with other members of staff.


  • Every committee member in the BMA must undergo training in diversity, equality, anti-bullying, active-bystander and collegiate working through bespoke courses specifically developed for the BMA. Ms Romney said that 'to mend the BMA' the courses should not be online - 'active participation, commitment and learning is required'. She added that the training should concentrate on the impact that words and actions have on others and the importance of respecting colleagues.
  • There should be further mandatory training for committee chairs early in their tenure. This should develop their skills in managing meetings, including and encouraging all members to participate, identifying and dealing with bad behaviour and understanding the basic principles of fairness and equality in making appointments on that committee.
  • Members of committees (including the chair and members of the executive) should be subject to periodic feedback (on an anonymous basis) from fellow committee members and staff about their behaviours, along the lines of a 360-degree appraisal.
  • Appointment practices should be monitored to ensure that 'rather than the tap on the shoulder' for a committee role or project everyone is given a chance to apply and objective criteria are drawn up for the role.
  • Meetings should not take place without everyone eligible to be there being invited and notified of the meeting, not afterwards.
  • Committees should introduce quotas or minimum numbers of women in order to better reflect the percentages of men and women in each branch of practice. Ms Romney said this should be a temporary measure, suggesting that in 10 years, 'hopefully the balance will change'.
  • There should be a least two committee seats for those (male or female) who have not previously been elected. Mentoring should be made available as required.
  • Members of committees should be prevented from standing for re-election for that committee after 12 years, unless they hold an executive position, in order to allow new members onto the committee.
  • BMA members (other than chief officers and others on committees in an ex officio or co-opted position) should be restricted in the number of committees they can sit on.

Complaints process

  • Following the implementation of the new external processes for complaints, the administration of the resolution process should be moved to the HR department.
  • If complaints are made under the resolution process, the BMA must ensure that there is adequate support, counselling and protection for the complainant, and ensure that he or she is not victimised in any way for having made a complaint, whether the complaint succeeds or not.
  • The panel of doctors should be widened to include those not on council or regular committees to enable respondents and complainants to feel reassured of a fair hearing and to avoid the impression of bias. Ms Romney suggested that the panel should be 'wholly composed of doctors who are not regular faces at BMA House, but who are brought in from outside national committees and should not be personally known to the complainant or the respondent'.
  • If a complaint is made about a doctor, but met by a counter-complaint, it should still be investigated, and, if necessary, taken to a panel even if it is one word against another. Ms Romney said it had become too easy to 'stymie a complaint by a counter-complaint'.
  • Where a complainant wishes her (or his) name to be anonymous, there is a limited amount of investigation that can take place, but enquiries should be made as far as possible.
  • Where an anonymous complaint is received, it should be pursued only where the circumstances appear to merit it, and only after all the circumstances have been considered,

Read the report and the recommendations in full here.

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