Female doctors sidelined as NHS loses interest in flexible working

Female doctors are failing to reach their potential because the NHS’s commitment to flexible working schemes has waned, the UK’s top health adviser has warned.

In his annual report, chief medical officer Liam Donaldson said medical career paths and working conditions needed to become more female friendly.

Despite a rising number of women in the workforce, official statistics show that for the past eight years the percentage of female medical professionals working part-time has remained static at about 8%.

Donaldson said money ring-fenced for the expansion of childcare had become part of general NHS budgets and could be a “soft target” when it came to making cuts. He said the availability of flexible training posts had also fallen.

In the NHS childcare strategy launched in 2000, the government committed to providing more nurseries and subsidised places.

However, only one in 20 facilities is open at weekends, and waiting lists are often very long.

“These impediments will obstruct the progression of talented women in whom much has been invested, and jeopardise the success story of increased numbers of women entering the workplace,” Donaldson said.

The report recommended three courses of action.


Donaldson’s recommendations

  • An increase in the number of flexible training places for doctors.
  • A national working group to be established to look at workplace childcare provision.
  • Mentoring schemes to be reinforced in specialities where the proportion of women is low.


    A separate study by the British Medical Association found that women doctors were also under-represented in the areas of medical research and teaching.

    The year-long Women in Academic Medicine study found that only one in 10 clinical professors was female, and only two out of 33 heads of UK medical schools were women.

    The report called for positive action, such as more female role models and the active discouragement of the long-hours culture.

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