‘Partnership gap’ down to sexism, BJGP study finds

26th May 2023 by NASGP

‘Partnership gap’ down to sexism, BJGP study finds

‘Longstanding gendered barriers’ mean that women rarely get access to GP partnerships, new research in the BJGP reveals.

Just 41% of GP partners are women despite the fact that women make up 53% of the total workforce.

Across 40 interviews with 50 GPs, researchers found that GPs face ‘overt sexism, differential treatment by colleagues and patients, lower respect and gendered societal norms’.

They found that female GPs had cited preference for the flexibility of salaried work as a reason for lower uptake of partnership.

One interviewee, a female GP partner, told researchers: “Medicine still feels very patriarchal, valuing working long hours, devaluing part-time workers. I have suffered micro-aggressions from patients and partners.”

Another told the focus group: “It feels as though we may spend our 20s training, 30s having babies, 40s doubting ourselves and feeling our male counterparts have already taken all the leadership roles and 50s wanting to retire… Partnership needs to become more flexible and understanding of the needs and skills women in their 30s offer in order to be more attainable.”

The research included social media posts. One female GP partner wrote: “Many young general practitioners view salaried and locum work as allowing them to do what they were trained in—consulting with and assisting patients rather than battling targets and non-clinical duties.”

Cost was a barrier for many women GPs interviewed. Partnerships often require GPs to buy in whilst starting a family, when women’s earnings often fall. Female GP partners may also be required to fund parental leave, creating a further financial barrier at a crucial moment in their careers.

Authors also noted that the relative attractiveness of salaried, GP locum or private roles appears to discourage both men and women from partnerships at the moment.

Dr Richard Fieldhouse, NASGP chair, said: “Gender disparity within GP partnerships is a systemic issue that needs our urgent attention. Addressing organisational sexism within general practice is not just a moral imperative, it is crucial to our commitment to providing the best possible care to our patients. This recent BJGP study clearly illustrates the barriers that female GPs face, and the profession must reassess these financial and societal barriers, particularly those that deter female GPs from partnerships during crucial periods like starting a family.

“The current partnership model has proven to be less favourable for female GPs. As such, our profession’s focus should be on enhancing the salaried GP model and working alongside NASGP to improve support for GP locums. These roles are integral to our healthcare system and deserve our utmost respect and support.

“Furthermore, it’s time to challenge and change the patriarchal norms that pervade medicine, valuing flexibility and part-time work, and not viewing them as less worthy. The recent vote against valuing the salaried GP contract at the UK conference of LMCs is a disappointing reflection of our profession’s attitude towards salaried GPs. It underscores the need for a shift in perspective and the urgent need to value and support all roles within general practice.

“Ultimately, general practice should be about consulting with and assisting patients, not battling targets and non-clinical duties. As a profession, we must foster a more inclusive and supportive environment that respects and values the contribution of all professionals in the field.”

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