One of the British Medical Association’s former leaders told a medical student she was “the hottest lesbian” he had ever seen, and groped another, a debate on sexual harassment has heard.
The union has launched an investigation into sexism following claims by female medics that they have been unfairly treated.
Female doctors had accused senior members of the union of sending unsolicited naked pictures and joking about women’s bra sizes, amid a culture of “institutional sexism”.
The revelations by GP Online magazine prompted the union to open an investigation.
The union’s annual conference heard reports that young medical students had been repeatedly harassed and propositioned at previous conferences.
Medics passed a motion which said the BMA’s current complaints procedures were not fit for purpose.
But speaking during a debate on the matter, junior doctor Dr Jennifer Barclay raised concerns that victims had been left with even less recourse in the past.
Dr Barclay described how a second-year medical student was approached by a man who was then a senior member of the union’s council, at the annual conference, making comments about how attractive she was.
“He asked if she had a boyfriend, and she clarified that she had a girlfriend.
“This was met with the statement that she was ‘the hottest lesbian he had ever seen’. The conversation allegedly progressed with this council member explaining that if she were straight he would take her home to bed, and that such an experience would be enjoyable despite her sexual preference. Implying that this would change that preference.
“The student asked other council members to intervene explaining that this gentleman was drunk and behaving creepily. She asked if they could please take him home. The response was ‘I don’t know what to do, I can’t control him.’
She continued: “That council member was witnessed continuing similar behaviour at BMA events following this. Two years later he approached another medical student in a very similar manner. This time it progressed to groping.”
The medic said that when the first incident occurred, the victim was offered no support, with no process to deal with complaints.
But this had changed by the time of the second incident.
BMA chairman Dr Chaand Nagpaul said he wanted the BMA to be a “learning organisation” – and thanked people who had come forward to speak out about sexism and harassment.