The rise of women in general practice

Women became the majority of the GP workforce for the first time in 2014, and the proportion of GPs who are women has continued to rise. GPonline looks at the statistics to mark International Women's Day.

Women make up more than half of the GP workforce (Photo: iStock)
Women make up more than half of the GP workforce (Photo: iStock)

For general practice in England, a historic landmark was reached on 25 March 2014 - for the first time in NHS history, the number of women working in general practice was greater than the number of men in the profession.

The change in the gender balance of the GP workforce over the past decade has been marked - with NHS Digital data showing that as recently as 2007 women made up just 42% of the GP workforce, excluding registrars and retainers.

By 2012 this had risen to 47%, and the trend continued past the 2014 landmark to reach 54% in September 2017. This figure excludes registrars and retainers as well as the small number of locums picked up in NHS Digital's latest statistics.

RCGP chair Professor Helen Stokes-Lampard told GPonline: 'I am proud to lead a profession where over half of GPs in the UK are women, and I’m proud to lead a college where the chairs of all of the devolved nations, our council and our trainees and First5 committees are women.

Gender balance

'And we mustn’t forget our male colleagues who have supported us to get to where we are today.'

The future of general practice looks set to shift further towards women in the workforce, with GMC data published in 2015 showing that female GP trainees outnumbered their male counterparts by more than 2:1 across the UK, and that women were in the majority for all age groups under 50 in the general practice workforce.

However, despite the growing role of women in general practice, senior GPs have warned recently that barriers remain for women who want to take on leadership roles.

GPC sessional subcomittee executive member Dr Vicky Weeks warned last year that while over half of GPs overall were women, only 32% of GPC members were. Salaried and locum GPs were also under-represented.

‘We have to start looking at how we address this balance,’ she told GPonline last year.

‘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.’

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