Report into sexism at the BMA published

by Chris Patterson

The BMA has apologised after publishing an independent report into sexism in the association and has made a commitment to reform.

Location: UK
Published: Thursday 17 October 2019
Daphne Romney QC

The BMA has apologised after publishing an independent report into sexism in the association and has made a commitment to reform.

It commissioned Daphne Romney QC to produce the review after two female doctors alleged sexism and sexual harassment by elected members of the BMA.

The review was also asked to make recommendations to address gender bias and wider harassment in the BMA, drawing on examples of best practice.

When the allegations came to light, BMA council chair Chaand Nagpaul said such behaviours had no place in the association and committed to the review. Following publication, he has again apologised and pledged extensive reform.

In the report, Ms Romney says some women ‘feel they are undervalued, ignored or patronised because they are women. This applies to both doctors and members of staff. This is because of an "old boys' club" culture for some that lingers on without proper challenge, which treats women as of less importance and ability’.


Stand up to bullies

She says she expects ‘this report will focus attention within the BMA on the damaging elements of the discriminatory culture’.

The report adds: ‘I must emphasise that the majority of men in the BMA are not sexist or sexual harassers, and every committee is not riddled with discrimination. There are hundreds of BMA committees, most of which carry out their work perfectly properly.’

She also comments in the report that there were some ‘notable positives’ in the BMA, including a ‘supportive environment in childcare, the development of policies on bullying and harassment, and cultural awareness and assertiveness training for staff to enable them to stand up when bullied’.

Dr Nagpaul said in response to the report: ‘I am truly appalled to learn that members and staff have been subjected to sexism and sexual harassment and the behaviours described in this report. These behaviours have no place within the BMA.

‘I am deeply sorry to those who have been affected and I thank all those individuals who came forward to contribute to the review – I recognise their strength and courage in speaking out.

‘The report makes for difficult reading. I am determined that we learn from it, and, most importantly that we make the necessary changes to ensure we become a truly inclusive association by implementing the recommendations.’


Pervasive sexism

BMA representative body chair Helena McKeown said: ‘I am deeply sorry that doctors and staff have endured this inexcusable behaviour. I am of an age where sexism has pervaded so many parts of my personal and working life for too long.

‘It's not just within the BMA but that doesn’t mean we accept it; we don’t, and we won’t. I want the BMA to be an organisation, that as a doctor and as a woman, I am proud to be a part of and those who follow me will also be proud. This is a springboard for change and that change has already begun.’

BMA chief executive Tom Grinyer said: ‘The allegations and the commissioning of the report by Daphne Romney QC were a backdrop to my appointment as chief executive. Today I have announced that I want to go one step further than the recommendations and introduce an external guardian of safe working and internal, staff-listening champions for all involved in the BMA.

‘I arrived in July determined to tackle these cultural issues and this report gives us clear recommendations to do that. I call on all of us to help us deliver a fully inclusive BMA.

‘I am determined that we make the BMA a place where staff and members feel valued and respected for who they are and what they do. From today we move forward, we begin to heal the BMA and to make it an organisation to be proud of.’

The BMA has introduced a number of measures to promote equality and tackle discriminatory behaviour.

They include:

  • An independent and external 24-hour support line, so that any member or member of staff experiencing sexism or indeed any discriminatory behaviour can speak to someone in confidence and introduced an independent complaints investigation process carried out by an experienced external firm so that members and staff alike can be assured of impartiality
  • Equality Matters, a programme which provides learning for all BMA members and staff on equality, diversity and inclusion
  • The initial development of bespoke face-to-face training for all members in elected roles and for chairs of committees on inclusive leadership
  • The offer of an amnesty to all staff and members who have previously made complaints for those complaints to be considered again by the external independent complaints process