RCGP hits out at surgeon's comments on female GPs

The chairwoman of the RCGP has condemned 'insulting', 'outdated' and 'arguably sexist' comments about women GPs made by a top surgeon.

Dr Maureen Baker: defends women's role in general practice
Dr Maureen Baker: defends women's role in general practice

Dr Maureen Baker said the College was ‘extremely disappointed’ by views expressed by the senior surgeon at the Royal Marsden hospital Professor J Meirion Thomas.

Writing for a national newspaper Professor Meirion Thomas argued that the rising number of female GPs was creating ‘serious workforce problems’.

Women GPs were more likely to work part-time and choose to look after children, the consultant wrote in a Mail Online column, warning this could deprive patients of continuity of care. General practice, he added, was ‘organised for the convenience of doctors — particularly, I suspect, for female GPs — and not their patients’. 

But Dr Baker called the comments ‘highly insulting’ to hardworking GPs. ‘To suggest that women enter "less demanding specialties" and have no ambition for senior positions does a great disservice to the GPs - and consultants - who hold leading positions in their field,' said Dr Baker, the college’s second successive female chair.

‘We should be celebrating general practice for its excellent track record on gender equality,' said Dr Baker, ‘not attacking GPs for choosing to work part-time. The real solution is to invest in general practice, including the creation of more GP posts, both part-time and full-time.’

President of the Medical Women’s Federation and GP Dr Fiona Cornish called Professor Meirion Thomas’ views ‘backward’.

‘Professor Meirion Thomas is right that female doctors do take time out to have babies and some opt to work part-time,' she said. ‘Women should not be penalised for this, just as men are not penalised for opting to go into private practice or pursue managerial posts which reduce their clinical commitments. It is well recognised that female doctors are more caring and have fewer complaints than their male colleagues.’

Changes to the workforce had long been recognised, she added, and ‘creative solutions’ were needed including more women in leadership roles. 

Last year health minister Anna Soubry was forced to ‘clarify’ comments following criticism for saying that training women GPs placed a 'great burden' on the NHS.

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

Ms Soubry responded saying 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'.

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