Minister Anna Soubry backtracks on women GPs 'burden'

Female doctor Are women a "burden" on the NHS?

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There are "unintended consequences" for the NHS of training and employing women as GPs, Health Minister Anna Soubry has said in Parliament.

She was responding to a question about the "burden" of female doctors marrying and starting families.

The head of the Royal College of GPs said it was wrong to blame women doctors for problems in the NHS.

Ms Soubry later said her comments were not meant to be "derogatory" and the answer was to hire more GPs.

During a debate in Westminster Hall, Conservative MP Anne McIntosh, said: "It's a controversial thing to say, but perhaps I as a woman can say this - 70% of medical students currently are women and they are very well educated and very well qualified.

"When they go into practice and then in the normal course of events will marry and have children, they often want to go part-time and it is obviously a tremendous burden training what effectively might be two GPs working part-time where they are ladies.

"And I think that is something that is going to put a huge burden on the health service."

In response, Ms Soubry said: "You make a very important point when you talk about, rightly, the good number of women who are training to be doctors, but the unintended consequences."

Dr Clare Gerada, the chair of the Royal College of General Practitioners, took to Twitter to say: "I cannot believe that women doctors are being blamed for problems in NHS."

In a statement later, Anna Soubry clarified her remarks saying she had "not intended to be derogatory" and was responding to a point made by another MP during the debate.

"The solution is that we need to increase the number of GPs and we are doing that.

"This government supports good working practices such as flexible working, job-sharing and part-time working which help retain female doctors."


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  • rate this

    Comment number 234.

    232 michellegrand
    Agreed again,I suppose that's what the US+Australia do to us and our trained GPs,nurses,surgeons,teachers etc,it's a kind of NO morality game of pass the debt,and have a seat when the IMF come+look after No1, ie your own country,less and less countries can afford principles!

  • rate this

    Comment number 233.

    There needs to be the opportunity for everyone to work less hours. People work too many hours to the detriment of family life. Bringing up children is also the responsibility of the father. Of course this would mean better wages for those on hourly rates but considering the increasing rich/poor divide, it is only fair. Less hours would mean more people needed and therefore less unemployment.

  • rate this

    Comment number 232.

    226 gerald - i understand what you say - but it doesn't work. Lawyers blocked it. We train people in our branch of private industry, and when they have finished their apprenticeship they leave for another private employer who doesn't pay to train people. I wonder too if we should we pay 3rd world countries for their nurses and care staff we take to this country?

  • rate this

    Comment number 231.

    MPs keep your dirty noses out of the NHS. Nurses and doctors are amazing people and the only reason NHS has issues with money is bureaucracy


  • rate this

    Comment number 230.

    227 Rachel
    I take your point,but try being mentally ill !?
    228 michellegrand
    Totally agree with you,but as I'm sure your aware,I was talking about the majority,it's like bankers,it was a very small % who had/have their nose in the trough,the vast majority don't recognise the sums involved!
    Lets both assume the majority in our points,otherwise there will be a million and one caveats!!

  • rate this

    Comment number 229.

    The medical profession is not well suited to long term leave such as maternity leave. Doctors need to keep working otherwise there is a risk of skill fade and, unlike many professions, that could be fatal.

  • rate this

    Comment number 228.

    223 Gerald - you are right. many private sector directors get multi million pound salaries, pay rises in double digits year on year, pay level set by their peers. Something public sector workers don't get (or most lower ranking private sector employees). Public sector employees rarely get to hide their wages off shore.either

  • rate this

    Comment number 227.

    I am fed up with Britain's attitude to women. If we stay at home and raise a family, we are 'lazy scumbags scrounging off society' if we have a career then we are 'selfish and liabilities to employers'. Either way, we are in the wrong. I am 30 something and child-free and yet feel that I have been discriminated against and looked down on by society for the last 15 years.

  • rate this

    Comment number 226.

    224 michellgrand
    "work around this",why cant there be a specific length of time you have to work in the NHS after training,male or female in order to pay back the costs of training you,and giving you the ground work for your future private work?
    225 ziggyboy
    "doing her job"agreed,assume she is available like all other GPs?
    Your choices don't cost the taxpayer x2 training does+handovers of info!

  • Comment number 225.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 224.

    Council cutting back on care for the elderly means more doctor visits instead. Blaming doctors for NHS problems, when few if any paper pushers are being laid off is similar to the armed forces - cut the teeth and leave the tail and Commanders. Women have children - can't we work around this? Or do the tories need someone else to blame?

  • rate this

    Comment number 223.

    218 jcdb
    Same logic applies to male female ratios in infant,primary schools,I think it's worse,any female teacher with a family who says it was a vocation,is simply not telling the whole truth!
    Public sector workers will vote me down,BUT,there are many working practices,conditions etc even now,that any private sector employee has never seen,let alone lost!

  • rate this

    Comment number 222.

    Controversial maybe. But our education system was changed quite rightly when girls were not performing as well as boys. Seems to have gone too far leaving boys trailing behind hence increased numbers of girls studying medicine at uni. Read today 70% doctors are female. Like it or not more women than men work part-time whatever the work place.

  • rate this

    Comment number 221.

    Regardless of gender, the tax-payer shouldn't be allowing them to semi-retire at an age of their choosing. They should be paying back their training costs until 65. Nice house/holidays/kids should come at a cost.

  • rate this

    Comment number 220.

    Like it or not women are seen as second class citizens in terms of they were put on this earth to bear children and continue the male line. Modern society suposedly sees this differently BUT it appears that is still expected of a woman to run a home, bear children and hold down a job whilst being critised for doing so.

    Hey, we women just can't win no matter what we do!!

  • rate this

    Comment number 219.

    Surely the problem, in all walks of life, is that we simply cannot afford to pay women to have a year off just because they want a baby. My self-employed wife managed a week off because that's all we could afford - perhaps the same principles should be applied to public sector workers, what can we afford!

  • rate this

    Comment number 218.

    I am a male GP
    Why is this problem unique to GPs
    Why not discuss Nurses / Teachers / or day I say it ... MPs
    Would patients' needs be met by all male GP service ?
    The naivety of the Minister's statement is utterly staggering
    Think of the solutions :
    1 Enforced hysterectomy
    2 Sex change
    3 Outright discrimination
    If she hasn't considered these options, all she has achieved is to alienate female GPs

  • rate this

    Comment number 217.

    211 Paul
    Put aside the cost of X2 training,how about access to your regular GP if she works half a week etc etc,and the depth of your relationship simply cant be the same,ie you cant dictate when your ill,nor book before your ill to fit her days & times!
    Surely it is plain common sense when choosing a GP,if they are female to ask what their working practice will be,PC does'nt know you,a GP should

  • rate this

    Comment number 216.

    So 70% of medical students currently are women.
    Is 70% of the workload done by women doctors?
    Adjusting for pay, do women doctors do the same amount of work per pound?
    If not, then one gender must be better value for money. (Could be the women for all I know.)
    If you want to ignore the answers, then you want money to be wasted.
    If you want to suppress the questions you are even more dangerous.

  • rate this

    Comment number 215.

    Incredible. Female gps are just as valuable as male gps. its 8am until 6pm, then paperwork, reading etc etc, a 12 hour day really,no breaks, No praise or thanks. A 5 day week that is 70 hours, that is a job for two GPS, not one, whether male or female. Weekends, evenings- seriously! Emigration to oz would mean 300% increase in pay, less hours, better life but GPS stay ... But for how long?


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