Intended for healthcare professionals

Rapid response to:


Gaps in paediatric rotas mean that GPs must do more in community, says royal college

BMJ 2015; 351 doi: (Published 27 August 2015) Cite this as: BMJ 2015;351:h4646

Rapid Response:

The elephant in the room - do we need more men in medicine?

Initially on reading this headline I was fuming another lets get GPs to do more article - however I agree with the other commentator that the headline and article are poor and more daily mail than I would expect from the BMJ.

On reading the whole article it leads me to the conclusion that the real issue medicine is facing is really poor workforce planning.

I recently saw a statistic that only 20% of female GPs are still working past the age of 40 - I'm not sure i believe it but it also said almost none are full time. Yes a lot of male GPs are also less than full time but the proportion is lower. Now I have no problem with this - my wife is a GP, most of my partners are female and most of them are better doctors than me. However as a practice we have had to recruit more to cover the number of sessions to deliver the service we have to give and because the supply is small we are struggling to recruit. Its simple maths.

So have the numbers of medical students kept pace? I have no stats but the outcome that every profession is struggling seems to me to suggest 1. we should radically increase the number of medical students and 2. perhaps more controversially we should be encouraging more boys to go to medical school?

Have our educators and their demand for touchy feely communication skills in 18 year olds put off a load of boys who might grow and mature into great doctors but whom aren't as mature as their 18 year old female counterparts? Have we gone too far with our selection processes? I'm not convinced that you could tell much about my skills as a doctor now based on how i was at 18.

At a recent open day session I attended at Keele university the audience was close to 90% female - there just seemed to be no boys interested. My wife recently gave a talk on medicine as a career to the local sixth form - again almost all girls.

If we are happy with a 90% female workforce - fine - lets just up the numbers to cope. If we think there should be more of a balance - are we finding out why?

Should we be creating more graduate entry opportunities? Encouraging gap years? Giving boys more comm skills training?

Competing interests: No competing interests

05 September 2015
Neil R Paul
GP Partner