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GP leader had to take sick leave following reports of sexist comments and culture within BMA

bullying BMA

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.

However, in March this year she took sick leave, with the conduct and culture of the GPC contributing to her ill health, a Pulse investigation has concluded. Dr Jameel has now returned to her role.

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.

The BMA had faced allegations around sexism in 2019, and commissioned a report by Daphne Romney QC, which found there was an ‘old boys’ network’ culture at the organisation.

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.

READERS' COMMENTS [3]

Vinci Ho 31 May, 2022 8:37 am

Although you probably know I often have a soft heart on BMA ( simply because of our honourable LMC secretary who was elected member in BMA council ) , there is no defence when we come to this issue of discriminatory behaviour.
Introspection, genuine and sincere determination to learn lessons with humility and remedial changes to be implemented are the only answers .
As I wrote , like many establishments, BMA had easily followed the fate and trajectory of other ones we all know .
This is the time , no other . Otherwise , how is BMA/GPC different from GMC , CQC and even the college?😑
Farah, please get and stay well 🙏

Clare Sieber 31 May, 2022 12:29 pm

how many more women need to call this out and how many more independent investigations do we need before the BMA can openly admit that there is a problem? rhetorical question, of course

Keith M Laycock 1 June, 2022 7:05 pm

To form an opinion, it would be helpful to have an indication of the types of speech and/ or behaviour which has been described as ‘sexist’ and representing an alleged demeaning culture.