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Recession ‘not an excuse’ to ignore maternity pay, DH warned

By Lilian Anekwe

Exclusive: The woman behind an ambitious Government report into the inequalities faced by female GPs has told Pulse she fears her recommendations may fall victim to savage primary care cuts.

Baroness Deech, who chaired the committee which produced the Women in Medicine report in October last year, said she feared the recession could be an ‘excuse’ not to fund the radical proposals she called for – including ‘critical’ reforms mandating PCTs to pay the full cost of locum cover for GPs on maternity leave.

‘In the report I asked the Department of Health to put together a case to the Treasury,’ she told Pulse. ‘But I am really pessimistic about getting money because of the recession and hope they do not use it as an excuse not to take it forward.’

‘I am personally concerned that recommendations about childcare and leave that have cost implications will suffer because of the recession.’

Baroness Deech also said she feared the recommendations would fall by the wayside in the wake of political upheaval and changing faces at the Department of Health.

‘I understand that there has been encouraging feedback from the DH in relation to leadership, revalidation and clinical awards recommendations. The Scottish and Welsh chief medical officers have welcomed the report,’ she said.

‘But I really want to persist in making sure that this does get taken forward. Sir Liam Donaldson was very committed and I hope the new CMO will be equally supportive.’

Baroness Deech praised the BMA, which has been amongst the first organisations to act on her report through its Equality and Diversity Council.

‘The BMA has asked all its committees to consider how to take the report forward. They will make sure that their committee meetings are being held during normal working hours. They are looking into providing childcare budgets for member who are required to attend meetings.’

GPC member Dr Clarissa Fabre, a GP in Uckfield, Sussex who was also on the report committee, said she had held meetings with RCGP president Iona Heath to discuss maternity pay, but that progress has been frustratingly slow.

Dr Fabre said: ‘Locum payments to cover maternity pay are still a big problem, and only six months after the report nothing has happened at PCT level and everything is quiet on that front.’

‘I am a bit depressed because there have been loads of reports on this issue in the last few years and nothing has been done. Morale amongst women in particular in the profession is very low.’

And Dr Fabre told Pulse she would prioritise improving women’s rights in the profession when she begins her term as the president of the Medical Woman’s Federation this month.

Dr Clarissa Fabre: ‘Locum payments to cover maternity pay are still a big problem’ Dr Clarissa Fabre: ‘Locum payments to cover maternity pay are still a big problem’