RCGP responds to Prof. J Meirion Thomas article in Daily Mail

Publication date: 08 January 2014

Dr Maureen Baker responds to Daily Mail article about women GPs

We are extremely disappointed that Professor J. Meirion Thomas holds such narrow minded, outdated and arguably sexist views about women GPs ('Why having so many women doctors is hurting the NHS', 2 January, 2014).

His comments are highly insulting to the thousands of hardworking doctors - women and men - up and down the country who will see 1 million patients in general practice today alone. GPs who are trying their best to provide care for patients in general practice against an increasingly challenging backdrop of spiralling workloads and funding that has hit a record low of just 8.39% of the NHS budget.

To suggest that women enter 'less demanding specialties' and have no ambition for senior positions does a great disservice to the GPs - and consultants - who hold leading positions in their field.

Women in medicine make a huge contribution to the NHS at all levels and in 2014, it is ridiculous to suggest that this grinds to a halt when they have a family.

Any doctor who chooses general practice as a specialty is certainly not doing it for an easy ride.

90% of all NHS patient contacts take place within general practice. GPs are currently stretched to their limits, working record hours in surgery and making up to 60 patient contacts a day.

General practice is also becoming more complex as we tackle the challenges of an ageing population, more patients presenting with multiple and complex conditions and more patients with mental health problems. We are carrying out treatments in general practice that 10 years ago would have been immediately referred to a hospital physician.

Training doctors does cost a considerable amount of money and it is essential that this investment is not wasted. This is why the RCGP is looking at ways of overcoming the hurdles that currently prevent GPs, men as well as women ,who have had a career break or gone to work overseas from returning to the NHS and caring for patients.

We should be celebrating general practice for its excellent track record on gender equality, not attacking GPs for choosing to work part time. The real solution is to invest in general practice, including the creation of more GP posts, both part time and full time.

We are also astounded by the Professor's claims that the RCGP is resisting reform and that we are isolating ourselves from our hospital colleagues.

For over 60 years the College has been at the forefront of change and setting standards to improve patient care, including the pioneering of closer working between GPs and our hospital colleagues.

General practice is the cornerstone of the NHS and investment in general practice safeguards the future of the entire NHS, hospitals included.

The RCGP has launched a major campaign Put patients first: Back general practice to increase the share of the NHS budget for general practice from 8.39% to 11% over the next three years.

We wish that Professor Meirion Thomas had used his platform more wisely to support our campaign rather than unfairly criticising GPs who are already under siege from all quarters, apart from those who know best - our patients.
Dr. Maureen Baker CBE
Chair of Council, Royal College of General Practitioners 30 Euston Square, London NW1 2FB

Further Information

RCGP Press office - 020 3188 7574/7575
Out of hours: 0203 188 7659

Notes to editor

The Royal College of General Practitioners is a network of more than 49,000 family doctors working to improve care for patients. We work to encourage and maintain the highest standards of general medical practice and act as the voice of GPs on education, training, research and clinical standards.

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