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First female GP leader of BMA subjected to sexism and toxic culture

8th Jul 2022

Elham Asaad Buaras

The British Medical Association’s (BMA) GP committee’s first female chair was forced to take sick leave due to a sexist culture at the union, according to doctors’ magazine Pulse.

In November 2021, Dr Farah Jameel, who completed her GP training in 2013, became the first woman in the committee’s 100-year history to be elected as chair.

However, she was forced to take an absence in March because of the committee’s toxic culture.
Dr Jameel, a London-based sessional GP, is back in the role at the union which strikes deals with the NHS over GP contracts.
A female former BMA chair, who oversaw policy, claims to have left the organisation due to stress partly caused by the organisation’s culture.

The accusations come two years after a report conducted by Daphne Romney QC, found that the BMA was an “old boys’ club,” where women colleagues were referred to as “silly girls,” “little ladies” and “wee lassies”.

A second report released earlier this month found the BMA’s England GP committee (GPC) still had an “old boys’ network” and that bullying within it contributed to marginalising women and other minority groups. It found female doctors reported being called “silly girls” and suffering from sexual harassment and bullying.

Doctors with links to the GPC told Pulse that Dr Jameel faced sexist comments in her role.
One GP said they were approached by senior officials within the BMA to say the organisation “doesn’t know what to do with her.”

In a statement to The Muslim News, BMA joint CEOs, Rachel Podolak and Neeta Major, said they are “concerned”” by the reports.

“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 chairing 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.”

The BMA admits that there are ”wider concerns”’ about the working conditions in the GPC but dismisses the idea that sexism is ‘common’ across its organisation.

A BMA spokesperson 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 [this is a method of sharing information via a group email system] and several instances of confidential material being leaked to the media.

Adding ”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. We have an independent external complaints process, as recommended by Orla Tierney in her report and which moved the BMA from the internal conduct and resolution process which was already in existence.

The Romney review, published in October 2019, was an external facing review into allegations of sexism and sexual harassment, the Review specifically commended the BMA for adopting Tierney’s recommendation that complaints needed to be externally investigated.

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