Response to Daily Mail article: Why having so many women doctors is hurting the NHS...

07 January 2014
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On 2nd January 2014 the Daily Mail published this article by Professor J Meirion Thomas. The Medical Community has been very agrivated by it and a number of responses have been made. Below is our reponse, followed by links to a number of other responses.

"Why having so many women doctors is hurting the NHS: A provocative but powerful argument from a leading surgeon" By Professor J Meirion Thomas

The Medical Women's Federation Response:  

We are astounded by the article written by Prof Meirion Thomas in the Daily Mail entitled "Why Sam Williams Photohaving so many women doctors is hurting the NHS: A provocative but powerful argument from a leading surgeon". It is unfortunate that such a prominent surgeon continues to propagate such a backward view in the 21st Century. It is well recognised that having women as part of the mainstream workforce is key to the success of organisations. Organisations that recognise this and provide the flexibility in their workforce plans to ensure that they keep this talent pool are those that are successful. Prof Meirion Thomas is right that female doctors do take time out to have babies and some opt to work part-time. Women should not be penalised for this, just as men (including him) are not penalised for opting to go into private practice or pursue managerial posts which reduce their clinical commitments. It is well recognised that female doctors are more caring and have fewer complaints than their male colleagues.


Women in hospital medicine have to pull their weight just like their male colleagues; however it is impossible to give continued care to patients with the EWTD in place both in primary and secondary care. However, there are systems in place to ensure patient safety and good standards of care which need continued improvement. We need to continue to identify new and innovative ways to improve this system, rather than have such a negative approach as portrayed by Prof Thomas.

The changes in the medical workforce have been recognised for a long time, however creative solutions are needed and it is important for women to take up leadership roles and the Medical Women's Federation strives for this by encouraging women to "lean in" to these roles by giving support and mentorship. It is unfortunate that Prof Thomas is part of a (decreasing) group of men in senior leadership positions who to date have not had the ability to look forward and work with women to provide the solutions required. Prof Meirion Thomas' concern about General Practitioners training is unfounded and shows a lack of an ability to work as a member of a wider team of the NHS and sadly shows a lack of respect to other professionals. His concern about lack of integration of primary and secondary care is also out of touch with the new clinical commissioning groups having secondary care doctors on their boards.

Women who chose to study Medicine gain their places on merit, Research supported by MWF has identified that doctors choose their speciality based often on role models who they have worked with. It is important for our present (mainly male) medical leaders to ensure that they are respected as role models so that there is recruitment of these highly intelligent women into those specialties that Prof Thomas has shown have a low level of interest by women.

Most women are more committed to NHS work and not private work and hence give more back to the NHS. What women need to stay in the medical workforce is good role models, creative support from the Royal Colleges and the NHS to enable them to progress in their careers and if they wish to carry out their family commitments, to have the career flexibility to do so.

The Medical Women's Federation seeks to ensure that support is available at all levels of training for women in the medical profession and to enable women to achieve their desired outcomes.

The Medical Women's Federation.

Other responses:

The importance of less than full time employees to the NHS - Twitter Sourced Article

BMA refutes criticism of women doctors - by Krishna Kasaraneni, BMA Newsletter

Women GPs aren't hurting the NHS – but old-fashioned views continue to undermine our contribution - By Dr Sara Khan, Pulse

Part-time women doctors needn't be a health epidemic in Britain - By Cathy Newman The Telegraph

Dean Royles: Some people are women, get over it - By Dean Royals (NHS Emplyers) HR Magazine

President's response to Daily Mail article by Prof. J Meirion Thomas - by Prof Norman Williams, Royal College of Surgeons

RCGP responds to Prof. J Meirion Thomas article in Daily Mail - By Dr Maureen Baker


Medical Women's Federation
Tavistock House North,
Tavistock Square, London,
Tel: 020 7387 7765

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