This site is intended for health professionals only

At the heart of general practice since 1960

I saw the culture of sexism at the BMA first hand

Editor’s blog

jaimie kaffash 2 duo 3x2

jaimie kaffash 2 duo 3x2

I’m going to break two of my cardinal rules in this column – never to bring my personal experiences into it, and never to praise a rival publication.

My first proper job after university was at the BMA. I was basically an admin assistant, organising conferences and meeting papers. I did enjoy it and, it being my first job, I made a lot of good friends for life there.

We still talk about the culture of sexism at the BMA, because it was so apparent – in particular suffered by staff from the doctor representatives. There was the obvious patronising language from those at the very top of the organisation; the attitude in response to allegations that staff should ‘bend over backwards’ to help the doctors; the constant leering at social events.

There was an internal inquiry that saw women in double figures come forward about their treatment (including one member of council). This was a decade ago, admittedly. From what I have heard since, not a massive amount has changed.

It’s something I have wanted to write about for ages, but there was always (understandably) a reluctance from people to talk about it. So the allegations put forward so forcefully in GPonline are much needed – and no massive surprise to me. It was a brave piece by the women who came forward.

You only need to look at the composition of the BMA’s GP Committee to see how male it actually is: only one of nine of its policy leads is female; there are twice as many men on the committee as women. This is despite women making up more than half of the workforce.

An urgent independent inquiry is the right move. This is not just an internal BMA matter though – it has ramifications for the profession.

We reported just last week that general practice has a gender pay gap far higher than other health professions. We are releasing the results of our workload survey next month, but I can tell you that there is a massive gender divide there too in terms of female GPs working beyond their scheduled hours.

Most of this can be put down to the fact more women work part-time. But this just makes the GPC composition even more stark. Can the GPC really be representing female part-time GPs as they should with such a big gender divide? They did have a strong leader of the GP sessionals subcommittee – but she was one of the two GPs who left the committee as a result of the culture.

The BMA has made the right noises since the publication of the allegations. But there is a lot of work to do.

Jaimie Kaffash is editor of Pulse. Follow him on Twitter @jkaffash or email him at

Rate this article  (5 average user rating)

Click to rate

  • 1 star out of 5
  • 2 stars out of 5
  • 3 stars out of 5
  • 4 stars out of 5
  • 5 stars out of 5

0 out of 5 stars

Readers' comments (3)

  • Vinci Ho

    The world in early 21st century has ,somehow, taken a dramatic turn of ‘revolution’ . 911 and the subsequent war on terror campaigns , tsunami 2004 , financial tsunami 2008 with the downfall of Lehman Brothers exposing the hypocrisy of globalisation , Fukushima nuclear crisis 2011 etc
    All the presumed invincible , long-lasting establishments and infrastructures , against all odds , fell one after another . One can label ,at least ,some of these as natural disasters . But I would rather believe this as a cycle of ascension versus decline ; inflation versus deflation . When something gets too big , it runs the risk of bursting the bubble , no matter how strong its foundation is being perceived .

    When the bubbles kept bursting , what did we do ? We wanted radical changes and here comes the demagogues . Trump , Erdogan, Modi , Bibi , Salvini , Duetetre etc in presumably democratic countries . They clearly exploited the anger and disillusion towards establishments among people creating common ‘enemies’ . Fighting these ‘enemies’ have become the social norm . In order to consolidate the control of their regimes , they have to explore and create ‘enemies’ every day for people to follow their reality TV shows . (Xi And Putin simply have their own crafted enemies by strong-hold the media).

    My point is ,perhaps , behind this backdrop of anger , frustration and more specifically populism , we have forgotten and misinterpreted the universal values we are suppose to uphold, namely respect of each other , equality , humility and honesty . Neo-liberalism seemed to be magic bullet at one time , especially after the collapse of USSR in 1991 followed by the fall of the Berlin Wall . But as I( a fan of Orwell) always say , Liberty , if ever existed , simply refers to saying things people do not like to hear , actually took Equality for granted , if Liberty was exercised with insouciance and relentlessness . We see that in all these demagogues.
    Internet is a ‘massive’ tool invented to facilitate Liberty and certainly has served its purpose in a fashion of a double-edged sword . Me Too movement will have never seen living daylights without social media .While I certainly support this current campaign against sexism within this dinosaur BMA/LMC establishment, this clearly only represents a small tip of a massive iceberg .
    But this process of confronting each other from two polarised ends using Liberty as a tool , should have never happened if we had a better interpretation and acquisition of these values we are suppose to support in the first place ? Old habit is perhaps , hard to rid but more importantly,what should we teach our next generations and children ? Something has to be changed fundamentally at the level of education.
    It is our own fault to allow our differences and disputes to ferment into prejudice and division . With the spices of arrogance and bigotry, we impose actions and inactions on each other with no justification.
    Whoever finds the ‘solutions’ to inequalities will win all the Nobel Prizes of peace for the next 100 years ..............

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • Vinci I enjoy your columns but you must have voice dictation.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • Vinci Ho


    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

Have your say