Two-month investigation into sexism and harassment to begin in May, BMA reveals

An investigation into sexism and harassment within the BMA will begin in May, the association has confirmed - a month after GPonline highlighted concerns raised by senior women in its GP committee.

BMA House (Photo: Malcolm Case Green)
BMA House (Photo: Malcolm Case Green)

An investigator is expected to be appointed 'by May' and will be given two months to assess BMA members' experiences and to make 'specific recommendations to address sexism or sexual harassment in the BMA', according to details published on the BMA website.

The investigation will consider allegations by past and present members of the BMA's GP committee, assess how past complaints have been handled, and look at barriers to reporting concerns.

It will also consider 'the current degree of sexism/gender inequality in the BMA' and assess 'organisational or systemic factors' that may have contributed to inequality.

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 Full terms of reference and scope of the BMA investigation

BMA members will be encouraged to come forward with concerns, and the investigation 'will be open to confidential feedback from all BMA members and staff on the matters within its purview', a statement from the association says.

GPonline revealed last month that some of the BMA's own regional officials believe that sexism and harassment are 'not seriously addressed' within the BMA and its internal processes actively discourage doctors from raising concerns.

Terms of reference set out by the BMA make clear that a 'review with recommendations for changes to the code of conduct complaints process is due to be concluded in May', alongside the wider investigation.

However, the BMA statement suggests that more members have come forward since GPonline published an article by senior GPC members Dr Zoe Norris and Dr Katie Bramall-Stainer on 1 April warning that sexism had cost the profession a generation of leaders.

A line setting out the proposed scope of the investigation says it will seek 'detailed feedback from those who have made complaints in the media as well as those who have responded to the statements that the BMA has already made to the press and membership'.

'Outdated culture'

GPonline reported alongside the article from Dr Norris and Dr Bramall -Stainer on women in senior BMA GP roles' experiences of sexism, harassment and exclusion and concerns over a 'sexist culture' within the organisation.

In their article, the two senior GPC members hit out at 'squeezing of thighs' and 'patting of bottoms', top female doctors who had been propositioned, harassed or faced bullying - and said it was time to 'blow open the lid on this outdated culture' that had no place in the profession.

They wrote: 'There must be a wholesale culture shift away from drinking and dinners, taps on the shoulder to take on roles, under-the-breath comments, factions and back-stabbing. We have to make sure those who represent the profession, reflect the profession; and embrace diversity by offering all GPs the same opportunities. Most importantly, there must be a genuine objective process for challenging and addressing such behaviours.'

BMA chair Dr Chaand Nagpaul responded on the day the GPonline articles were published with a statement condemning sexism and promising an urgent investigation.

BMA apology

He said at the time: 'I am appalled to hear of the treatment my colleagues describe and of similarly unacceptable behaviours.

'I want to say I’m sorry to them, and offer my heartfelt apologies on behalf of the whole association. Abusive behaviour has no place in the BMA and I recognise the courage that it takes to come forward with such allegations and so I thank them for that.

'In order to be truly representative we cannot afford to lose valued members as a result of inappropriate behaviour going unchallenged, and ultimately, it will be the profession that loses out if we do.

'Let me be clear – sexist, disrespectful, discriminatory and abusive behaviour will not be tolerated in this association and must be stamped out.'

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