News, Culture & Society

Doctors’ union doesn’t take sexual harassment seriously, members say

Sexism scandal at the British Medical Association deepens amid allegations a senior official ‘groped female student and called another “the hottest lesbian he had ever seen” at conference’

  • The British Medical Association has faced another hit from sexism allegations
  • Its members voted to agree that its complaints system is ‘not fit for purpose’
  • Staff are ‘actively discouraged’ from making complaints about male colleagues 
  • Senior doctor was suspended after telling student she was the ‘hottest lesbian’

A sexism scandal gripping the UK’s biggest doctors’ union has deepened after members said it doesn’t take sexual harassment claims seriously.

One senior member of the British Medical Association allegedly told a medical student she was the ‘hottest lesbian he’d ever seen’ and groped another. 

Female doctors have also accused colleagues of sexually propositioning them, patting their bottoms, loudly guessing bra sizes and even sending uninvited nude photos. 

The BMA is already carrying out an investigation into the inappropriate actions of its male members.

And at a meeting this week doctors condemned the  internal complaints procedure, calling it not fit for purpose and warning it puts people off reporting sexist incidents. 

The revelations are the latest in a string of damaging public comments which have forced the BMA’s chairman to apologise and commit to change. 

Dr Katie Bramall-Stainer (pictured) was one of the first GPs to come forward and reveal the sexist behaviour happening behind the scenes at the British Medical Association. It was her testimony, along with that of a colleague, Dr Zoe Norris, which triggered an investigation

‘Let me be clear – sexist, disrespectful, discriminatory and abusive behaviour will not be tolerated in this association and must be stamped out,’ Dr Chaand Nagpaul, chair of the BMA, said in April.

Doctors have since started giving evidence to an investigation which was launched in light of allegations made at the time, specialist news site GP Online reports.

Two senior GPs, Dr Zoe Norris and Dr Katie Bramall-Stainer, just months ago blew the lid off a sexist culture in the association, which has 160,000 members.


A report found earlier this year that male GPs earn about a third more than female GPs in the NHS.

The gender pay gap is 33 per cent for GPs and 17 per cent for hospital doctors, the report says.

This means that for every £1 earned by female doctors in the NHS, male doctors earn at least £1.17. 

Women are also outnumbered in senior medical roles, with 32,000 male consultants to 18,000 female, according to the initial findings of an independent review into the gender pay gap in medicine.  

The review of the gender pay gap in medicine, led by Professor Dame Jane Dacre, was commissioned by the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) in April last year.

While two thirds of doctors who start training are women, they represent fewer than half of consultants, the DHSC said.

Health Minister Stephen Hammond said: ‘The founding principle of the NHS is to treat everyone equally, yet women employed in the health service are still experiencing inequality.

‘It’s disappointing to see that the numbers show that two-thirds of senior medics are men despite more women starting training and it is essential we understand the underlying causes of the gender pay gap if we are to eradicate it from modern workplaces like the NHS.’

The final report will be published in September. 

In the motion passed this week BMA members agreed the in-house complaints procedure was not good enough and people are ‘actively discouraged by it’.

They also said ‘sexism and harassment are not seriously addressed by the BMA’.

And they welcomed the ongoing investigation and said they expect its findings to be quickly published and acted on by the association.

The votes took place at the BMA’s annual representative meeting which started on Sunday in Belfast and ends today.

One doctor speaking at the conference, Dr Jennifer Barclay, revealed there had been disgraceful incidents at the annual conference itself just years earlier.

A second-year medical student reportedly asked colleagues to save her from a ‘drunk and creepy’ senior doctor who called her ‘the hottest lesbian he’d ever seen’ and made a remark about taking her home to bed.

The same man was later accused of groping another medical student and was suspended, then stepped down from his post, GP Online said.

Dr Katie Bramall-Stainer, one of the two GPs who came forward to make the revelations which led to the sexism investigation, spoke at the conference this week.

She said: ‘I have served on national branch of practice committees for 18 years, maintaining corporate confidentiality throughout.

‘Deciding to speak out was not undertaken lightly.

‘By going public, I know that I will have offended many of you who feel that the current processes should have been used.

‘But here lies the issue – it appears the current processes are not trusted by the people who need them most.’

The BMA called for more women affected by sexist behaviour or harassment by members of the union to come forward and help the investigation.


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