Tory is accused of 'denigrating' female doctors

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Indy Politics

A Conservative health spokesman who said female doctors were less productive than men was widely condemned by members of the medical profession yesterday.

A Conservative health spokesman who said female doctors were less productive than men was widely condemned by members of the medical profession yesterday.

Phil Hammond told a meeting of parliamentary candidates that it was a "statistical fact" that female doctors were 20 per cent less productive than their male colleagues. He said: "So when Alan Milburn tells you he's going to produce an extra 8,000 doctors, you need to ask him what gender they are going to be."

Mr Hammond said later that studies proved that women did "not deliver the same number of hours as a male doctor because of taking time out for their family.

"When we hear we are going to have 8,000 extra doctors, if 70 per cent of them are female then we are only really delivering an extra 7,000 careers over a working lifetime."

A spokeswoman for the Royal College of Physicians said she had no knowledge of Mr Hammond's 20 per cent figure. "In the past we have said that because women take time off for maternity leave they will, over their working lives, work less than men. But that does not mean that they work less hard than men.

"This is not a problem and should not be seen as a problem. Society is changing and it is not just women who want flexible training and work patterns - it is men, too."

Sarah Thurlbeck, a consultant paediatrician at St George's hospital in south London, said: "This denigrates women's contribution to medicine and the NHS in particular.

"A reduction of 20 per cent would mean women taking a break of eight weeks a year in a 40-year career, which I just don't believe happens."

According to the British Medical Association, women make up 33 per cent of all hospital doctors, including 21 per cent of consultants and 52 per cent of new house officers. Just over a third of GPs are women, and about half of new medical students arewomen.

Under the NHS 10-year plan, published in July, by 2005 there will be more 7,000 consultants and 2,000 more GPs, with family-friendly working practices to help women stay in the profession.

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