How selfish the female sex can seem today. Not only do many think they deserve positive discrimination despite years of equal opportunities, but they also seem unconcerned about then monopolising certain job sectors. On top of that they assume the right to family friendly terms and conditions. Nowhere is this more true than in the case of medicine. Apparently, it is quite all right for women to claim a scarce place at medical school, then proceed to take maternity leave soon after qualification and decide that part time is all they are prepared to give in return.
It is a sign of these selfish times that the alarm bells ringing over the impact of women doctors’ maternity leave on struggling children’s medical services barely got a headline in The Times last week. Yet paediatric staff shortages are predicted to lead to hospital unit closures – all directly the consequence of women doctors taking maternity leave and/or then only coming back part time. The Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health finds that this whole area of medicine has been put into jeopardy as a result.
You’d hope there would be some honest criticism of this state of affairs. But instead Dr Simon Clarke, the Royal College’s ‘workforce officer’, bent over backwards not to offend or upset the ever vigilant equality monitors of the NHS. Extremely careful, is how I would describe the wording of his response to this new report. Instead of underlining the truth, which is that employing so many women doctors has proved inefficient and unproductive, he chose to interpret the facts this way:
“Doctors choosing paediatrics as a career are likely to be family focused, which is an important attribute for their professional role.” What he can only be suggesting in this exercise in obsfucation is that women, unlike men, are innately family focused and this means they prefer paediatrics. What they prefer they must get whatever the consequences apparently.
I am not sure whether this is an example of chauvinism or misandry – but it hardly speaks to a true equality agenda – for men that is.
It is however a convenient way of explaining away the fact that an astonishing 75 per cent of doctors in paediatric training programmes today are female. It is also a convenient way of excusing the staggering proportion of these doctors off at any one time on maternity leave.
What he did not raise is how this extraordinary state of affairs has been allowed to come about. Have male doctors turned their backs on this specialism? Or have they not been allowed into it?
The implication is that men are less family focused and therefore less motivated with respect to children – an aspersion I imagine most male doctors’ hackles would rise at. I am not aware of any evidence that female doctors are more appropriate, more competent or more preferred by children (or their parents), though I am happy to be corrected on this.
I suspect the notion that women per se are better children’s doctors because of their ‘maternal’ qualities is complete poppycock. The chances are that women set on high powered careers like this are hardly the most maternal of their sex. To imply that men are less good children’s doctors, or less ‘family focussed’ for that matter, is also an extraordinarily prejudiced idea.
But Dr Clarke’s weasel words are typical not just of such latent prejudice but of the obsfucation of reality we’ve all come to live with, when what is urgently needed is some clear and plain speaking.
In a nutshell, there is no justification at all for promoting women doctors at the expense of men and at the expense of the general social good. Women are not better doctors than men and their desire to have their cake and eat it is too expensive a luxury for a cash-strapped NHS. It is time to call time on the skewing of medicine in favour of women and against men.
Because it is not just children’s services that are suffering as consequence of female preference. The whole of the NHS is. With woman doctors contributing fewer hours and years to the NHS than their male counterparts, for the same investment in their training, it is crazy that more young women than men routinely command the places at medical school. In 2012, 55 per cent of medical students were female an imbalance that has marked recruitment every year recently. It has been worse. It was 61 per cent in 2003. No wonder women now dominate the profession.
What on earth is possessing medical schools in the UK to continue to do this when they must know the cost implications of maternity and women doctors’ career patterns?
It is hard to believe that it is for a lack of decent male candidates. Boys getting straight ‘A’s for physics, chemistry and biology are being refused the chance to study medicine. One such young man I know, who was turned down by five medical schools, finally got in to read bio-medicine at Newcastle (which is not a medical qualification). Yet it is hard to imagine a better candidate than this young man. His academic ability was born out when he secured firsts in his first two years. His caring commitment and ability was already proven when he spent the whole of his gap year working as a care worker in an old people’s home.
There is certainly a lack of public awareness and among women in particular. Talking with the mother of a 17-year-old school girl dead set on her becoming a doctor recently, I noted that her daughter’s future family commitments never entered the conversation or the equation. She focused entirely on her daughter’s numerous grades and pass levels and school competition with her female peers. Neither were aware that the NHS is drowning partly as a result of part-time female doctors.
They would have been shocked at the idea it might be better to let a young man get her place at medical school. They would have seen it as a travesty of women’s rights.
But is this the way a mother of a child in hospital with cancer would think, on hearing the place was about to close down, all because the women doctors had not been prepared to commit full time to their careers like a man?