Report Finds Lingering 'Old Boys' Club' Culture at BMA

Nicky Broyd

October 18, 2019

The findings of an independent investigation into sexism and sexual harassment at the British Medical Association (BMA) have been published and make 'difficult reading'.

Some of the investigation's recommendations have already been implemented and its author, Daphne Romney QC, emphasised that "the majority of men in the BMA are not sexist or sexual harassers".

Inquiry Findings

The investigation was called for in April this year after two female members of the General Practitioners Committee alleged sexism and sexual harassment by elected members of the BMA.

In subsequent interviews Dr Zoe Norris and Dr Katie Bramall-Stainer talked about the "dark dinosaur infested depths of the world of GP politics".

In her findings, Daphne Romney QC noted that some women, "feel they are undervalued, ignored, and 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."

She said: "Some men continue to address women in demeaning terms, such as ‘girls’, ‘silly girls’, ‘naughty girls’, ‘little ladies’, ‘lady members’, ‘Madam Chair’ and ‘wee lassies’; they focus on asking them about their children, and how their husbands are coping with their absence, rather than asking them about their achievements, their career aspirations and their views on policy; they demonstrate a lack of respect towards them, and to their contributions, and tend to ignore or belittle their concerns.

"Some of that may be unconscious. On the other hand, there are some behaviours that are, and must be obviously understood to be, unacceptable, including shouting, demeaning women, sexual harassment, and bullying. Some of this may be generational, but that does not make it any less offensive."

She also wrote: "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."


Chair of the BMA Council, Dr Chaand Nagpaul, said in a press statement: "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."

The BMA’s 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."

He went on: "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."


Dr Helena McKeown, a chief officer at the BMA and representative body chair, said: "I am deeply sorry that doctors and staff have endured this inexcusable behaviour… 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."

The BMA has started to implement some of the 31 inquiry recommendations. It has:

  • Launched a 24-hour support line, so that any member or member of staff experiencing sexism or any discriminatory behaviour can speak to someone in confidence  

  • Introduced an independent complaints investigation process carried out by an external firm

  • Launched Equality Matters – a programme to provide learning for all BMA members and staff on equality, diversity and inclusion

  • Begun to develop face-to-face training for all members in elected roles and for chairs of committees on inclusive leadership 

  • Offered 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


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