Female doctors groped, propositioned and harassed by senior male colleagues in British Medical Association, GPs claim

Doctors report being groped, sexually propositioned, and harassed among culture of ;incessant nudge-nudge, wink-wink more suitably placed within a 1970s Monty Python sketch'

Alex Matthews-King
Health Correspondent
Wednesday 03 April 2019 13:58
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Female doctors have complained of misogynistic treatment
Female doctors have complained of misogynistic treatment

The UK’s largest medical trade union has become embroiled in the #MeToo scandal after leading female GPs said ”1970s sexism” was rife among male colleagues in senior roles in the British Medical Association (BMA).

Issues raised by female doctors included being groped, subjected to belittling remarks about their bodies, sexually propositioned at national meetings, and sent unsolicited naked pictures.

The union said it would launch a full and independent investigation after Dr Zoe Norris and Dr Katie Bramall-Stainer, who have held senior roles on its council and GP Committee, revealed the issues in an article for GP Online.

Recounting their experiences at the national conference for local medical committees, Dr Bramall-Stainer and Dr Norris both said they had each received comments from “very senior” male members of the BMA’s GP committee that they were “naughty girls”.

After holding prominent roles in the the GP Committee, both doctors said “the experiences we have had at the hands of some colleagues” had prompted them to stand down.

Since writing about their experiences both doctors said several other colleagues come forward with similar experiences. This “Me Too” effect has been seen across industries around the world in the wake of revelations about decades of sexually exploitative behaviour by Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein.

“Some verbal; many physical. All unwelcome. All damaging. We are not isolated cases,” Dr Norris and Dr Bramall-Stainer wrote of the other incidences of sexual harassment they were now hearing about. ”These too, need and deserve a voice and a chance to be heard.”

Senior male colleagues tried to guess the bra size of a female colleague, and a female LMC chief executive “was sexually explicitly propositioned after presenting a keynote speech”, they added.

The pair also called for an end to the culture of “drinking and dinners [and] taps on the shoulder to take on roles”, which they said had contributed to the “incessant nudge-nudge, wink-wink more suitably placed within a 1970s Monty Python sketch”.

“Most importantly, there must be a genuine objective process for challenging and addressing such behaviours.”

In a statement to GP Online, Chaand Nagpaul, chair of the BMA and past head of the GP Committee, said: “I am appalled to hear of the treatment my colleagues describe and of similarly unacceptable behaviours.

“I’m sorry, 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.

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

He said “decisive” action was needed, “which is why we are launching an urgent and wholly independent investigation in response to these allegations”.

“We would also ask any member who feels they have experienced discriminatory or abusive behaviour to contact us,” he said.

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