Senior GPC members have warned that both women and the sessional GPs face unfair barriers to acquiring senior roles within the General Practitioners Committee.
And GPC leaders have essentially concurred with this verdict, conceding that more must be done in order to ensure leadership proportionally represents the profession.
Top women GPs have warned that there is currently an uneven playing field in terms of recruitment, which is illustrated by the composition of the GPC compared with the profession at large.
Well over half of GPs are women, while only 32% of the GBC members are female.
Salaried and locum GPs are similarly underrepresented.
Dr Vicky Weeks, an executive member on the GPC’s sessional GP subcommittee, believes that this is an important issue that must be addressed sooner rather than later.
“We have to start looking at how we address this balance. Where we’re at at the moment, keeping the status quo, is not an option anymore. We do have to represent all our GPs. We need to get more younger GPs, we need to be more ethnically diverse and we certainly need to address the gender gap.”
Her comments come after GPs at the LMCs conference 2017 rejected a motion – proposed by Dr Weeks – calling for a significant shake-up of how GPC leadership is elected.
The motion called for “proportionate representation” of principals, salaried and locum GPs and representation that “mirrors the genders of the constituent members of the profession”.
But numerous GPs spoke out against positive discrimination, and the motion was ultimately dropped.
Even Weeks conceded that she could see both sides of the argument, but was surprised by the strength of feeling proposing such measures.
“The BMA has done some work on positive discrimination, but it was viewed very negatively,’ she said. ‘I’m surprised it’s viewed so negatively, actually. Other industries have introduced a positive discrimination policy to get representation on their boards,” Weeks commented.
The eminent doctor went on to explain the benefits of the proposed approach.
“We’re not saying we should promote some useless person on the board – it’s just about giving them the opportunity to take up a role. We know like votes for like – unless policy is put in place that allows a range of candidates to stand that will be able to represent, I think it’s not going to change”.
Responding to the issue, GPC deputy chair Dr Richard Vautrey was in agreement that the General Practitioners Committee must respond to the gender issue.
“The GPC works hard to encourage all GPs to engage in its work and would want any GP to feel able to stand for election to the committee. We’ve taken steps last year to co-opt an additional member of the LMC conference who has only recently qualified and together with representatives from the ARM we do have a number of active and valued younger members.”
Vautrey went on to point out some recent positive achievements at the committee.
“The number of sessional GPs on the committee has also increased and we’ve now a sessional GP as members of the executive team as well as a thriving sessional GP subcommittee. We clearly need to do more to address the gender balance within the committee and we’d welcome the views of female GPs as to what more we could do to enable them to stand for election.”