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Revealed: Leaked email from GPC chair casts doubt on BMA attempts to address sexism

BMA sexism

Exclusive The GPC England chair was described as ‘naughty’ and ‘petulant’ in emails from within the BMA, while casting doubt on the BMA’s progress in addressing sexism, an email leaked to Pulse has revealed.

In the email to the Network of Elected Women (NEW)’s group, Dr Farah Jameel said she has been subjected to ‘repeated and persistent undermining and micro-aggressions’ from within the BMA, including being excluded from meetings she should have attended.

Dr Jameel revealed in the leaked email that she had submitted a subject access request to the BMA, and as a result received redacted documents that used ‘words such as “naughty”, and “petulant”’ to describe her.

She also said it was ‘ironic’ and ‘upsetting’ that her election as the first female chair of the GP Committee in England is being held up as evidence of how the BMA is addressing sexism within the organisation.

The BMA said it has already appointed an independent investigator to look into a broader range of concerns raised by Dr Jameel.

Pulse revealed this month that Dr Jameel had taken sick leave in part due to sexist comments she faced and that many members feel there remains a ‘toxic culture’ within the BMA, which is affecting female representation, especially within GPC England.

The BMA’s annual representative meeting in Brighton today is set to discuss progress made since the publication of Daphne Romney QC’s report into sexism at the organisation.

A independent audit that is set to be discussed on ‘improving culture and inclusion at the BMA’ found that just over half of the recommendations made by Ms Romney had been implemented, including the setting up of female staff and member networks, the implementation of a ‘speak-up guardian’ and the introduction of a new complaints procedure.  

The report also referred to GPC England electing its first female chair as an example of diversity in leadership positions – a point that the BMA has made to Pulse and the BMJ.  

However, in her email, Dr Jameel said that the behaviours that triggered the review by Daphne Romney QC in 2019 are continuing, and this review has not had any effect in her experience.

She wrote on the NEW email group: ‘Approx a month ago I came across a document disclosed to me following a formal Subject Access Request that I put in.  

‘Within the document is an email exchange dated 5 October 2021. Words such as “naughty” and “petulant” are used to describe me in two separate emails initiated by different authors,’ although she added she could not be sure who the authors were, as they were redacted.’

She said: ‘I am aware that it was the existence of such behaviours that triggered the Romney review and quite evidently the review hasn’t had any effect in this respect (in my personal lived experience).’

Dr Jameel reference two articles in the BMJ where the BMA cited her election as examples of the organisation addressing the sexist culture.

She added: ‘It is both ironic and upsetting that I am being held up as evidence of how the BMA has changed, when I personally have been subjected to repeated and persistent undermining and micro-aggressions from within the BMA.’

A BMA spokesperson said: ‘Following Dr Jameel’s submission for a subject access request, she has received several hundred pages of data, which included the thread with comments from male and female individuals. Some of these emails have been referred for review though our internal HR process.  

‘We had already appointed an independent investigator to look into a broader range of concerns raised by Dr Jameel and we are discussing the time table for this with her.  Following the Daphne Romney review we have recently published our report outlining progress against those recommendations.  This demonstrates that we are making a lot of progress but there some areas still outstanding. We are committed to ensuring that we address any remaining issues and will continue to listen to and work with members and staff to implement the Romney review in full.

‘It would be wrong to not acknowledge Dr Jameel’s appointment as the first female chair of the General Practitioners Committee (England) and as the first woman of colour to hold that important elected position from published material recognising female progression within the BMA.’

Dr Jameel was approached for comment.

In his final speech as BMA Council chair yesterday, Dr Chaand Nagpaul addressed the issue of sexism within the organisation, admitting that it is ‘manifestly not’ where it needs to be.

He said: ‘My wife, sister and my daughter are now all doctors. I’ve seen their reality of the additional hurdles and discrimination women face in our health service. Our sexism in medicine report has demanded action to end women in medicine being held back from achieving their best, to end inequalities in pay and the indignity of being treated unfairly. 

‘And this must apply within the BMA too. The 2019 Romney review was a wake-up call. We have made changes but we are manifestly not where we need to be, with 38% of women elected to BMA council – barely an increase from four years ago. And it should not have been the case that no woman stood for the forthcoming chair of council election. 

‘We must grasp the nettle and properly see through lasting changes to extinguish sexism, and indeed, any other ism. We must make the BMA a beacon where we reflect our membership, where any woman – indeed any person – is supported to flourish. Because like the health service, we know that organisations that are driven by fairness and inclusivity are more productive, happier and deliver better outcomes.’

READERS' COMMENTS [5]

Michael Mullineux 28 June, 2022 10:23 am

Wow. Terms more redolent of kindergarten. Who are these dinosaurs?

Robert James Andrew Mackenzie Koefman 28 June, 2022 10:25 am

Difficult to comprehend that this still goes on and i never understand how there is a pay differential between men and women in medicine surely there is just doctors pay . Certainly in general practice or our practice, partners are partners, salaried docs are salaried and locums are locums the only differential comes in the hours worked not the rate of pay i would expect the same in hospitals as well ?

Vinci Ho 28 June, 2022 12:29 pm

As my own motto goes:
It is a fine line between politically correct diplomacy and dangerously flawed hypocrisy.
Electing the first female GPC chair was supposedly politically correct ……😑

Patrufini Duffy 28 June, 2022 1:43 pm

Inside job – you can’t see them.

David Banner 29 June, 2022 1:51 pm

Without all the details it would be moronic to draw conclusions, but just to point out….
– I and other males have frequently been described as naughty and petulant, without context this isn’t necessarily sexism
– her male predecessors have also faced scathing criticism over many years, male members should not feel stifled from making constructive criticism through fears of being accused of sexism
– there’s nothing in the article about a pay differential, surely it’s illegal to pay males and females different rates for the same job. Of course, if females work fewer hours than male colleagues they will earn less, but this is choice, not sexism.
– it’s curious that when sexism in the NHS/BMA was rampant in the 20th century we heard nothing about it, but now that females have made huge deserved strides towards equality and largely banished the old dinosaurs to the past, we hear far more about sexist abuse
– whenever we see clichéd expressions like “micro aggressions”, “toxic culture “ and “lived experience” it raises (hopefully incorrect) suspicion of trendy male-bashing which it more likely to inflame and cement sexist attitudes within men rather than ameliorate and eradicate them. The path to equality is mutual respect and understanding, not reverse sexism. (E.g.the appallingly racist, sexist and ageist “pale male stale” insult liberally sprinkled around without fear or admonishment throughout the media)