Exclusive The first female leader of GPs in England had to take sick leave against a background of sexist comments and culture and conduct she faced at the BMA, Pulse can reveal.
Dr Farah Jameel was elected as the first female chair of the BMA’s GP Committee (GPC) in England in November 2021.
The Pulse investigation – which involved speaking to a dozen GPs connected to the GPC – was informed that this culture included Dr Jameel facing sexist comments.
One GP told Pulse they had been approached by senior officials within the BMA to say the organisation ‘doesn’t know what to do with her’.
And Pulse has also discovered that a former chair of the BMA’s Representative Body left the organisation due to stress caused in part by the culture of the BMA, which also included sexism. The BMA refutes this claim.
A report out earlier this month by Ijeoma Omambala QC found that there was still an ‘old boys’ network’ within the BMA GP Committee, and that ‘bullying’ within the committee continues to contribute to the ‘marginalisation of women, ethnic and other minorities’.
Now, Pulse can reveal that this culture has affected the top of the leadership.
In a statement to Pulse, incoming BMA joint Chief Executive Officers, Rachel Podolak and Neeta Major said: ‘We are very concerned to see these reports of sexist comments directed towards Dr Farah Jameel. Sexist comments of any kind are of course unacceptable.
‘We can confirm that Dr Jameel has raised concerns about the conduct and culture she has experienced within the BMA and the impact that this has had on her health and wellbeing whilst she has been chair of GPC England. These issues are of great importance to the BMA, and we will seek to deal with them as we commence our new role.’
In a separate statement, a BMA spokesperson said that there were still issues around the culture of the GPC.
It said: ‘There are also wider concerns about conduct and culture related to GPC England specifically, which the BMA recognises and is seeking to tackle. This includes repeated instances of poor conduct on the GPC England list server and several instances of confidential material being leaked to the media.
‘However, it would be wrong to characterise these issues as being common across the BMA which is functioning effectively and productively, as well as making strong progress in tackling the issues identified in the Romney review.’
However, Pulse has discovered that a former chair of the Representative Body – which sets out the policy for the BMA as a whole – left the organisation in part due to stress caused by the culture and conduct of the BMA. Numerous sources have indicated their belief that sexism contributed to the stress of the individual, who we are deciding not to name.
A BMA spokesperson said: ‘We are not aware of any former female chair of the Representative Body leaving the BMA due to being subjected to sexism or sexist behaviours. The most recent former Representative Body chair gave a statement making clear that she was leaving the BMA for personal and family reasons. She did not cite sexism. Neither the BMA nor our independent external complaints process has been asked to investigate any such allegation from the former chair and the BMA refutes that the reasons for a former chair leaving were due to sexism.’
They added: ‘As a part of our commitment to improve culture at the BMA, we encourage members and staff to raise concerns about behaviours. There are a number of ways to do so, further details are available on the BMA website.’
Pulse will be running more stories from this investigation in the coming days.