BMA Launches Sexual Harassment Inquiry 

Nicky Broyd

April 03, 2019

The British Medical Association (BMA) is investigating sexual harassment in the medical profession after allegations made by senior female doctors. However, an internal investigation may not be enough and there are already calls for any enquiry to be conducted by an independent body.

The allegations of 'institutional sexism' relate to the BMA's own GP committee, reported by GP Online . These include female doctors feeling unable to attend meetings away from home because of unwelcome sexual advances, belittling, crude and sexist comments.

Dr Zoe Norris and Dr Katie Bramall-Stainer told the publication that sexism is excluding a new generation of female medical leaders.

Dr Bramall-Stainer had previously tweeted her concerns about sexist language at the BMA Local Medical Committees UK Conference: "'Naughty girl' and 'Little girl' ... phrases said to me immediately before I took to the stage…"

https://twitter.com/doctor_katie/status/1108389504828743681

 

Urgent Investigation

BMA council chair Dr Chaand Nagpaul responded by launching "an urgent investigation" into the allegations, and "reaching out to affected members to invite them to be an integral part of this. We would also ask that any member who feels they have experienced discriminatory or abusive behaviour to contact us".

Dr Nagpaul said he was "appalled to hear of the treatment my colleagues describe and of similarly unacceptable behaviours".

He apologised on behalf of the BMA and said: "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.

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

He continued: "Going forward, we will be reviewing and identifying additional ways in which members can safely and effectively raise concerns."

Reaction

Medscape News UK asked Dr Zoe Norris whether she thought the inquiry will get to the root of the problems she'd brought to light.

"For the inquiry that the BMA have proposed to succeed in ridding the organisation of this culture, it must be conducted by an expert, independent body or individual who hasn't worked with any part of the BMA before. It must have the confidence of those affected, BMA membership and arguably the entire medical profession. The BMA's integrity and future depends on them getting this right," she told us.

She said she was prepared to take part in the inquiry – with some caveats: "If a genuinely independent and appropriate party is appointed to carry out the review, I will happily speak to them. I want the BMA to be a democratic trade union that any doctor can be part of without fear of being subjected to the type of bullying and harassment that currently exists."

Reflection

Dr Norris suspects some male doctors may have difficulty in changing their behaviour: "For some colleagues, even recognising this behaviour is inappropriate will need reflection. For others, recognising they are the perpetrators will be harder still. But we all do this as doctors every day, reflect on our practice and communication and hopefully improve them. If there are colleagues who are already dismissing this, or feel it doesn't warrant their time or attention, then I'd suggest they have no place in the BMA.

"This will require a long hard look, and I hope for the sake of the profession that everyone within the BMA is prepared to take up the challenge."

The BMA's complaints email address is complaints@bma.org.uk.

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