The BMA confirmed that the investigation will be led by Daphne Romney QC, a ‘leading expert’ in employment and discrimination law.
A statement from the BMA said: ‘The BMA has today appointed Daphne Romney QC to lead an independent, external, investigation into allegations of sexism and sexual harassment at the association. Ms Romney is recognised as a leading expert in employment law, most notably discrimination, equal pay and the gender pay gap, protected disclosures, and victimisation. The investigation will begin in the next few days and the recommendations will be made public later in the year.’
The appointment comes just over two months after senior women within the BMA's GP committee spoke out about their experiences of a 'sexist culture' within the association.
GPonline reported exclusively on 1 April that senior women GPs had reported being subjected to belittling, crude and sexist comments, being frozen out of meetings or ignored and facing sexual harassment while working within the BMA.
GPC sessional subcommittee chair Dr Zoe Norris and LMC conference chair Dr Katie Bramall-Stainer wrote powerfully on this website about their own experiences - warning that sexism had cost general practice a generation of leaders.
The decision to speak out by two such senior figures in general practice - alongside other colleagues who reported their own experiences - sparked an apology from BMA chair Dr Chaand Nagpaul, who promised an immediate independent investigation.
The BMA has said it expects the investigation into sexism and harassment will take around two months to complete, and has promised that key findings and recommendations will be published in full.
The investigator will make 'specific recommendations to address sexism or sexual harassment in the BMA' after considering allegations by past and present BMA committee members.
It will assess how past complaints have been handled, look at barriers to reporting concerns, consider 'the current degree of sexism/gender inequality in the BMA' and assess 'organisational or systemic factors' that may have contributed to inequality.
A BMA official wrote last month to GPs who have reported sexism and harassment to offer assurances over the process, promising the investigation would 'explore all the organisational, systemic and cultural factors in the BMA that fail to promote gender equality, including how this may have impacted on members’ appointments to non-elected positions within the association'.
The letter added that the BMA was working to ensure that 'all disclosures made to the investigator are treated sensitively and confidentially, and that individuals are able to participate in this investigation without fear of detriment'.
In a joint statement last month, Dr Stephanie DeGiorgio, Dr Amy Small, Dr Norris and Dr Bramall-Stainer - who have all spoken out about experiencing sexism, said last month that feedback from the BMA had 'reassured us that the inquiry is something we are happy to engage with fully'. The four GPs said: 'We would encourage all colleagues who have been affected in the past or continue to be now to do the same and end this behaviour permanently.'
The BMA has said that ‘sexist, disrespectful, discriminatory and abusive behaviour simply has no place in the BMA and must be stamped out’