The BMA has confirmed that there will be an immediate investigation, run independently of the BMA, into the allegations of sexism and sexual harassment made by several female BMA GPs committee members.
Its scope and structure will be developed in collaboration with those who have raised concerns.
The investigation is being led by Daphne Romney QC (who can be emailed at [email protected]) at Cloisters Chambers in the Temple.
In a letter to all association members and staff, Ms Romney made clear that she would conduct her investigations into the allegations of sexism and sexual harassment with complete impartiality.
She added that she intends to begin her inquiries by speaking to those members who have already raised complaints, adding that all communications and discussion with her during the investigation would be treated in the strictest confidentiality.
She said: ‘I am absolutely committed to a fair, thorough, and independent investigation. I would not have agreed to conduct this investigation had I been asked, or expected, to deliver any pre-ordained outcome, and you can be confident that I will reach my own conclusions and recommend any appropriate step to be taken.’
Anyone wishing to contact the investigation can email Ms Romney in confidence directly at Cloisters Chambers at [email protected]
The independent review is taking place following complaints made by a number of female association members about sexist and inappropriate comments and behaviour they received from some male colleagues.
BMA council chair Chaand Nagpaul said he was ‘appalled’ by the treatment described by colleagues.
He said: ‘I’m sorry and I offer my heartfelt apologies on behalf of the whole association. Abusive behaviour has no place in the BMA and I recognise the courage that it takes to come forward with such allegations and so I thank them for that.
‘In order to be truly representative, we cannot afford to lose valued members as a result of inappropriate behaviour going unchallenged, and ultimately, it will be the profession that loses out if we do.
‘Let me be clear – sexist, disrespectful, discriminatory and abusive behaviour will not be tolerated in this association and must be stamped out.’
Dr Nagpaul confirmed that the investigation would be ‘truly independent’ and that any recommendations would be implemented in a ‘timely’ manner.
He said members who have raised concerns through the media would have the opportunity to discuss their concerns with independent support.
The north London GP also committed to reviewing internal processes for BMA members to raise concerns.
He said: ‘These processes must be there to ensure that members feel supported and for those who fail to meet the high standards set by the BMA, they must be dealt with accordingly.
‘The BMA strives to be a compassionate, respectful and inclusive organisation and if better and more thorough training and education is needed on what is and what is not acceptable behaviour in 2019, that will also be provided.’
Dr Nagpaul added: ‘As chair of council I have been clear that the BMA must become a modern, progressive organisation, reflecting the best of society in the 21st century; all members should have equal opportunity to contribute and progress and must be respected without being subject to any degrading experience based on their gender, race, sexuality, age or any other characteristic.’
BMA GPs committee chair Richard Vautrey said he would ‘redouble’ efforts to eradicate any outdated culture within the BMA.
He added: ‘I am seriously concerned and saddened to hear my colleagues describe this unacceptable behaviour within GPC and other national GP meetings, and as chair I want to apologise to those who have been hurt by this.
‘I would personally like to thank the colleagues who spoke out in these articles for having the courage to talk openly about these issues, and giving all of us, including myself as committee chair, an opportunity to learn, act and change.
‘Their contribution to GPC and the wider BMA is something I have and continue to value and I am determined to address any behaviours that could lead to us losing the skills and talents of colleagues, as this will be to the detriment of the whole profession.’
Dr Vautrey added: ‘I want GPC to be a safe place for all members, who should feel supported, listened to, treated with respect, and be enabled to take as full a role as they want and are able to.
'As in our wider medical professional life, we must learn from any mistakes and errors so that we give all involved confidence that they don't happen again.’
Last year Dr Vautrey commissioned a gender diversity report and the UK agreed to fully implement its recommendations.
He added: ‘There is though more that needs to be done, which is why I have requested an independent BMA-wide investigation, which will now be launched and which myself and GPC will do everything we can to assist with.
'This will be an independent, external review so that members have the confidence that we are taking these issues seriously and making the necessary changes in response.’