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 74.

    Well done, Chris at 72.
    So often we say (or even write on HYS) things that seem reasonable without checking to see if they're true. So often we speak (or even write on HYS) a load of cobblers.
    Believe hard evidence, not common sense.

  • rate this

    Comment number 73.

    To whom, and why, if they do, does any MP make an oath of any worth to?. If she had uttered these gems of thought on twitter, she would have been lambasted, Silly Member of Parliament. A tongue faster than thought, some people get arrested for that fault, marked down on HYS,s. Questioning womens place, working for the NHS, on the grounds of cost, is scary, fearing their plans for it.

  • rate this

    Comment number 72.

    May well be truth to what she says but sadly she's chosen to speak with presumption rather than hard facts. How many women doctors do this? What is the cost really? An MP is in a position to have the figures. The fact that she doesn't suggests she's just trying to whip up sexist sentiment. Tories often get women to say the sexist stuff so they can get away with it.

  • rate this

    Comment number 71.

    I rarely visit the Doctors' Surgery, but when doing so I normally book an appointment with one of the excellent female doctors that are available. I don't mind if they have time out to have a family and just thankful for the time when they are there to help.

  • rate this

    Comment number 70.

    Amazing, when someone states an obvious truth their integrity is questioned. Brings back memories of eggs and salmonella!

  • rate this

    Comment number 69.

    Doesn't seem to understand what she is talking about?!


  • rate this

    Comment number 68.

    Perhaps we should all become politicians, and rid the UK of burden?

  • rate this

    Comment number 67.

    #58: "If I want to see my excellent male GP I usually have to wait 3 weeks."

    ... and people still claim the NHS to be fit for purpose?? Here in the US I can see my primary care physician at a few hours notice. If he's not available I have the choice to go elsewhere - freedom of choice that's denied under state-controlled healthcare.

  • rate this

    Comment number 66.

    In this neck of the woods it most certainly is not just women GPs who work part-time. Plenty of males don't need to do fulltime now their pay is so good. Add to that doctor partners being kept deliberately low so the practice profits aren't split too many ways and there's why you don't get to see one..... GPs are no better than estate agents or politicians.

  • rate this

    Comment number 65.

    Minister clarifies women GPs comment -- After watching Masterchef i now clarify gravy.

    Muslim centre burnt in 'hate crime'
    An Islamic centre in north London is destroyed by fire in an apparent hate crime attack.

    I think the beeb needs to sort out its headline writers.

  • rate this

    Comment number 64.

    Perhaps if teflon tony and brainless brown hadn't given doctors such a massive pay increase,then let them get off having to do out-of-hours work by forfetting a pittance of the massive increase,the pressent pressure on hospitals would be far less.
    As usual-leave things to politicians to muck up-the consequences are paid for by the general populace.
    Again-a pox on politicans,yet again!

  • rate this

    Comment number 63.

    60.Sunday Morning Dandruff
    The things that make someone good at diagnosis as opposed to adequate cannot be captured in software. Could a nurse do it - depends on the nurse as having that qualification is no guarentee either.

  • rate this

    Comment number 62.

    In my experience as a doctor there are just as many male consultants who choose to go part time by the end of their careers as female juniors who are part time while they have young children. The medical workplace is not very parenting friendly so many mums feel it's their only option, but as more women enter medicine I expect a culture change that is more financially & emotionally sustainable.

  • rate this

    Comment number 61.

    Remember the war, remember Florence Nightingale, and feel shame at such tosh from an elected MP, who, I feel sure, would prefer to consult with a female GP, where and when she could on many occasions.

  • rate this

    Comment number 60.

    The answer is blindingly obvious..

    We need FEWER doctors and MORE lesser qualified Medics armed with diagnosis technology. I am sure that 90% of what a GP gets taught at med school is either forgotten, irrelevant or obsolete. IMO, a Nurse with the right software and data base would out perform a GP.

    But, somehow IT and the NHS don't get on.

    Job done. Send consultation fee in post.

  • rate this

    Comment number 59.

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

    Can we assume, then, that flexible working, job-sharing and part-time working are not available to (or don't help retain) male doctors?

  • rate this

    Comment number 58.

    The statement is true but lacks insight. There are many reasons why doctors, particularly GPs, are in effect part time. Being female with children is only one of them. Others are related to the proliferation of other activities available to them or demanded of them. If I want to see my excellent male GP I usually have to wait 3 weeks.

  • rate this

    Comment number 57.

    The NHS is the largest employer in Europe, yet it provides a significantly poorer service than most of the advanced European countries, particularly Scandinavia.

    I would suggest studying and then implementing their systems before blaming poorer performance on childbearing women.

  • rate this

    Comment number 56.

    It does not matter whether GPs are men, women, animal, mineral or vegetable, your chances of meeting one are slim. Meanwhile A and E is a high risk location. It is time ordinary people banded together and provided help to each other. What they might lack in scientific skills they would make up in compassion.

  • rate this

    Comment number 55.

    As a man I have had to endure many visits to the GP and Hospital, some of which have been because of childhood illness that just failed to go away, I have had to have a catheter up to boy several times through my life and at times a female Doctor has done this, I can see no reason why not to entrust a female Doctor, after all they are just as qualified, sometimes just better... get over it men.


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