A Ukip councillor who blamed problems faced by the NHS on female doctors has defended his comments, calling the high number of women in medical training a “major problem”.
Nigel Pearson distributed a leaflet that claimed a nationwide shortage of doctors was caused by “positive discrimination in favour of women”, who are more likely to work part-time.
The leaflet, produced by Mr Pearson and other Ukip candidates in an upcoming Somerset County Council election, said: “Do we need female doctors? Of course we do, but not so many that they create the sort of problems the NHS is facing now”.
Mr Pearson told The Independent he did not believe the comments to be discriminatory and called for a limit on how many women are allowed to train as doctors.
“We have too many female doctors in the NHS,” he said. “They should be training more male doctors and there should be a cap on the number of female doctors that are trained.”
“It costs around £230,000 to train a doctor. If [women] worked full-time, we would only have to train half their number, which would result to a saving to the NHS of £517m a year.”
“It’s becoming a major problem,” added Mr Pearson, a councillor for Chard North. “I’m not saying all female doctors will work part time, but there is a large proportion that do, and that is the problem.”
Ukip has distanced itself from the comments in the leaflet, which also carried the name of another party candidate Peter Heather, reported Buzzfeed News.
“It is clear that this individual is not speaking for Ukip as a whole but for themselves. Fortunately this rather eccentric view is not held as party policy,” a national party spokesperson told the site.
Helen Stokes-Lampard, chair of the Royal College of GPs (RCGP), called Mr Pearson’s comments “extremely unhelpful and outdated”.
“To suggest that female doctors are to blame for the crisis in our NHS is frankly ridiculous, not to mention highly offensive to all our hard-working, dedicated and highly-skilled colleagues, both women and men,” Professor Stokes-Lampard told The Independent.
“Women in medicine make a huge contribution to the NHS at all levels, and it is simply untrue to suggest that this grinds to a halt when they have a family. Most people who take time out from full time working for family reasons return to working longer hours after a few years.
“General practice has an excellent track record in gender equality in the NHS and we should be celebrating this – not attacking doctors for choosing to work part time or working flexibly.
“Training doctors costs a considerable amount of money and it is essential that this investment is not wasted. This is why the RCGP is looking at ways of abolishing the red tape that currently prevents some GPs – men as well as women – from returning to frontline patient care after a career break or working overseas.”
A 2015 report from the General Medical Council found younger GPs are more likely to be female, with women representing 63 per cent of GPs under 40 but just 37 per cent of GPs aged over 50.
It said the majority of GPs in training – 69 per cent – were now women, describing this as a “cause of celebration”.
“What tends to happen is because you have female doctors working part time, the male doctors are now looking at what’s going on, and saying: ‘that’s not bad, I wouldn’t mind a lifestyle like that’,” said Mr Pearson.
“You can’t blame them. Imagine you’re a doctor working full time in a surgery, and then you’ll have a female doctor there who says: ‘right, I’m off for the rest of the week’.”
Everyone the Government blames for the NHS crisis – except themselves
Everyone the Government blames for the NHS crisis – except themselves
1/6 The elderly
“We acknowledge that there are pressures on the health service, there are always extra pressures on the NHS in the winter, but we have the added pressures of the ageing population and the growing complex needs of the population,” Theresa May has said. Waits of over 12 hours in A&E among elderly people have more than doubled in two years, according to figures from NHS Digital.
2/6 Patients going to A&E instead of seeing their GPs
Jeremy Hunt has called for a “honest discussion with the public about the purpose of A&E departments”, saying that around a third of A&E patients were in hospital unnecessarily. Mr Hunt told Radio 4’s Today programme the NHS now had more doctors, nurses and funding than ever, but explained what he called “very serious problems at some hospitals” by suggesting pressures were increasing in part because people are going to A&Es when they should not. He urged patients to visit their GP for non-emergency illnesses, outlined plans to release time for family doctors to support urgent care work, and said the NHS will soon be able to deliver seven-day access to a GP from 8am to 8pm. But doctors struggling amid a GP recruitment crisis said Mr Hunt’s plans were unrealistic and demanded the Government commit to investing in all areas of the overstretched health service.
3/6 Simon Stevens, head of NHS England
Reports that “key members” of Ms May’s team used internal meetings to accuse Simon Stevens, head of NHS England, of being unenthusiastic and unresponsive have been rejected by Downing Street. Mr Stevens had allegedly rejected claims made by Ms May that the NHS had been given more funding than required.
4/6 Previous health policy, not funding
In an interview with Sky News’s Sophy Ridge, Ms May acknowledged the NHS faced pressures but said it was a problem that had been “ducked by government over the years”. She refuted the claim that hospitals were tackling a “humanitarian crisis” and said health funding was at record levels. “We asked the NHS a while back to set out what it needed over the next five years in terms of its plan for the future and the funding that it would need,” said the Prime Minister. “They did that, we gave them that funding, in fact we gave them more funding than they required… Funding is now at record levels for the NHS, more money has been going in.” But doctors accused Ms May of being “in denial” about how the lack of additional funding provided for health and social care were behind a spiralling crisis in NHS hospitals.
5/6 Target to treat all A&E patients within four hours
Mr Hunt was accused of watering down the flagship target to treat all A&E patients within four hours. The Health Secretary told MPs the promise – introduced by Tony Blair’s government in 2000 – should only be for “those who actually need it”. Amid jeers in the Commons, Mr Hunt said only four other countries pledged to treat all patients within a similar timeframe and all had “less stringent” rules. But Ms May has now said the Government will stand by the four-hour target for A&E, which says 95 per cent of patients must be dealt with within that time frame.
6/6 No one
Mr Hunt was accused of “hiding” from the public eye following news of the Red Cross’s comments and didn’t make an official statement for two days. He was also filmed refusing to answer questions from journalists who pursued him down the street yesterday to ask whether he planned to scrap the four-hour A&E waiting time target. Sky News reporter Beth Rigby pressed the Health Secretary on his position on the matter, saying “the public will want to know, Mr Hunt”. “Sorry Beth, I’ve answered questions about this already,” replied Mr Hunt. “But you didn’t answer questions on this. You said it was over-interpreted in the House of Commons and you didn’t want to water it down. Is that what you’re saying?” said Ms Rigby. “It’s very difficult, because how are we going to explain to the public what your intention is, when you change your position and then won’t answer the question, Mr Hunt”. But the Health Secretary maintained his silence until he reached his car and got in.
The leaflet also accused the Government of spending “too much” on LGBT services.
Dave Bulmer, the mayor of Chard who is standing as an independent candidate for Chard South, told Chard and Ilminster News the comments were “absolutely appalling”.
“Making crass, ill thought-out and selective statements in election propaganda contributes nothing to any constructive debate or campaign,” he said.Reuse content