A damning report has found evidence of continued bullying, which contributes to the marginalisation of women, ethnic and other minorities within the BMA’s England GP Committee.
An independent review on the representation of GPs by Ijeoma Omambala QC was released today, having been commissioned by the GP Defence Fund, which funds the running of the BMA GP Committee.
The report looked at the GP committees in the four nations, and found that GPs were particularly dissatisfied with representation in England.
Following interviews with members of GPC England, it found evidence that of ‘sometimes abusive, disrespectful and/or unpleasant language used by some GPs to speak to one another on the ListServers’, an email group used by the committee.
These issues were highlighted in the Romney Report, which was commissioned after GPC members made accusations of sexism within the committee.
The report today added: ‘Rude, bullying and disrespectful communication on the ListServers clearly acts as a disincentive to participation in LMCs in general. In addition, it has the potential to contribute to the marginalisation of women, BAME and other minority voices within LMCs and GPCs.’
Some of the respondents indicated a need to address equality and diversity on national and UK GPCs. In relation to GPC England, specific comments included that there was ‘a gender bias towards men’, and that ‘young women are seen to be encouraged but do not get anywhere’.
Other findings included:
- ‘There is a view that many GPC representatives simply “represent themselves”and their own interests rather than those of their LMCs’;
- There was a feeling that ‘elections to GPC England are run by an “old boys’ network”with many seats on GPC viewed as seats belonging to a particular individual’;
- The negotiators for the GPC were seen as being ‘too secretive’;
- There was a problem with representation of sessional GPs, and many sessional GP representatives on GPC were older GPs who had recently left partnerships;
Delegates at the UK LMCs Conference in York discussed the report, and whether a new National Association of LMCs was needed.
They voted on consensus statements, and were broadly in favour of a new body to guide and support local committees in England particularly, with LMCs receiving more resources to set up such an organisation.
However, they were against this new organisation taking over the functions of the GPC.
A fractious debate in the morning at conference saw a number of GPs criticising the GPC. Dr Clare Sieber, who proposed a motion calling for the GPC to be replaced as the main representative body of GPs, said: ‘I believe we need a new representative body, and this just isn’t working. The GPC is not representing our needs and nor do I believe it ever can.’
Dr Jethro Hubbard, a sessional GP and treasurer for Gloucestershire LMC, said: ‘The abuse that some of the GPC members have been facing when they vote is completely unacceptable. We have been hearing about BMA staff members leaving. How can we build an organisation that supports our profession if we denigrate those who are standing up and putting themselves forward?
‘It is irrelevant to create a new organisation if we can’t treat each other with respect.’
Dr Phil White, BMA UK GPC chair, said: ‘We take extremely seriously any allegations of bullying or reports of bad behaviour, and have an independent process in place to investigate such occurrences. In recent years we have made great strides in representation, and made considerable progress since the 2019 Romney Review, including the introduction of training for members and staff and activities to improve culture. Across the BMA we have increased the representation of ethnic minorities, women and other groups but still have more to do.
‘GPC and the wider BMA is constantly seeking to learn and improve and regularly reviews how it is working. This report will be a valuable contribution to that process. We will need time to digest its contents, but we take seriously the claims made and are committed to working alongside GPDF to address the issues raised and discuss the ideas proposed.
‘GPC is dedicated to representing, defending, and advocating for all GPs, whatever their background, both through its work as a committee and through the BMA’s wider function as a professional association. As the trade union for doctors, we negotiate with health services and governments across the UK, and strive to secure the best deal for all GPs, not just BMA members.’