Letters

Women consultants

BMJ 1994; 308 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.308.6932.859e (Published 26 March 1994) Cite this as: BMJ 1994;308:859
  1. Julia Cumberlege
  1. Department of Health, London SW1A 2NS.

    Editor,--Geoffrey Chamberlain writes about the need for flexibility in employment practices for senior medical appointments in order to retain women doctors in the NHS.1 I share his concerns, as women doctors invest considerable effort in their careers and the NHS considerable resources in training them. I am also anxious that, whenever possible, patients should have access to the most appropriate professional for their needs. This is particularly true in obstetrics and gynaecology,3 where the availability of a female consultant is especially important for many women.

    The recent proposal for a part time consultant scheme, which makes it easier for women doctors to stay in the NHS, proved extremely popular and generated over 550 bids from units and trusts. Several appointments have already been made, and I await with interest the decisions of the remaining appointments committees. The scheme encourages NHS managers to consider the business advantages of part time appointments and provides an incentive for employers to be innovative. I hope that a further tranche of bids may be stimulated shortly on the same basis.

    I welcome the royal colleges' encouragement of alternative ways to work and their lead in appointing an adviser on part time working. The Department of Health is currently preparing a good practice guide, which will outline examples of successful, imaginative arrangements. Several registers already exist for doctors interested in job sharing, and I believe that these will become increasingly important as more women complete their undergraduate training and choose careers in hospital specialties.

    I am certain that the quality of care will be enhanced where men and women complement each other in leading the profession. Earlier appointment to consultant posts, which will follow the changes in postgraduate training that we are introducing, will also demand increasing flexibility in work patterns, for both men and women, as interests and commitments change over the working lifetime.

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