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Independents' Day

Change is a man's game

Phil‘s female registrars have all been good doctors but it’s the men who want to battle the status quo

Phil‘s female registrars have all been good doctors but it's the men who want to battle the status quo

The new registrars have started at my practice, and this time there's a radical difference.

For a start, there are three of them. We are a two-trainer practice, but for reasons best known to the powers that be, we've never had more than one registrar at a time, with the sporadic addition of an F1 doctor on a rotation from the hospital (and so not necessarily wedded to general practice). It's a refreshing change to have so many extra bodies about. There's a palpable sense of excitement and renewal. However, the significant departure from the norm is that all three of them are men.

It stands to reason that there are still male doctors going into general practice, but you wouldn't know it from looking at our place. I'm not going to go back and count them up, but I would guess that the last 15 VTS registrars and F1 trainees have all been female.

It's obviously unwise to generalise about such a diverse group of women, who have come from all social strata and at least six or seven different countries, and I should stress that there's not a single one among them who I wouldn't be happy to have as a GP for my own family in the fullness of time. But if there's one thing they've had in common, it was a desire to fit in.

Looking back over eight or so years of being a trainer who has only ever taught women, I've had a succession of registrars who have striven to find out how general practice works and how they can integrate and contribute. This has seemed to me to be admirable. I can't say I have always been entirely comfortable with some of the actual details; I'm not sure I want my protégés to be taking such comprehensive notes about the way I handle various situations when frankly I am making most of it up as I go along. But no doubt they'll find their own way in the end.

However, this morning I had my first seminar with my three blokes, and afterwards I spent some time musing on how it differed from seminars in the past. And this is it: they weren't asking how they could fit in. They were asking, in effect, ‘What the hell is this? And how do you make it different?'

We didn't go into a male-bonding huddle and high-five each other and march out vowing to mould general practice in our own image, but if I'm honest it did strike me, for the first time, as a remote possibility.

General practice needs men. We need women too – I suspect that individual GP consultations are actually better done by women on the whole. I know I am wildly generalising here and that there are many exceptions on both sides, but it seems to me that women are concerned with making things work as they are, while men are concerned with making things work as they should.

Something like 80% of new entrants to general practice are women. The experience of the teaching profession demonstrates that a feminised workforce suffers loss of status, income and influence. I have no doubt that this is because the political class that dictates to them remains male dominated. General practice will, if nothing changes, suffer the same fate.

Dr Phil Peverley is a GP in Sunderland

Dr Phil Peverley Dr Phil Peverley

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