Gender equality critical to future success of NHS – Health Secretary

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Health and Social Care Secretary Matt Hancock (Dominic Lipinski/PA)

The NHS must promote more flexible working options to encourage women into senior roles, the Health Secretary will say in a speech.

Matt Hancock will make a commitment to the one million women employed by the NHS – 80% of the overall workforce – to tackle the gender pay gap which sees female staff across the NHS paid on average 23% less than men, the Department of Health said.

Mr Hancock will describe gender equality as “mission critical” to the success of the NHS long-term plan.

In a speech to the Royal College of Physicians annual conference, Mr Hancock will say: “We need an NHS working culture that reflects Britain 2019 and accommodates how people expect to work and live now…

“So it should be deeply troubling to all of us, that the NHS gender pay gap is still 23%, that male GPs are, on average, paid a third more than female GPs and that over half of junior doctors are women, but at consultant level it’s only a third.

“The gender gap is a good barometer of the health of the NHS, and it’s clear we must do better.

“Gender equality is the only way we can hope to build an NHS workforce fit for the future.

“It’s the only way we can address the staff shortages, deliver on the ambitions in our NHS Long Term Plan, and get the workforce we need to create a sustainable NHS that will be there for all of us, for generations to come.”

The Health Secretary will call for digital rotas to be the norm across the NHS to give people greater freedom to manage their own time and pick up shifts to suit them.

Mr Hancock will emphasise that doctors should expect rotas to be fixed a minimum of six weeks in advance in response to stories of doctors missing important personal events because of last minute shift changes.

He will also encourage the NHS to promote more roles to eligible staff which are less than full time, term-time only, job-shares and, where possible, enable more home working to bring the health service in line with other sectors.

Mr Hancock will also call out recent reports of sexism and discrimination highlighted by female doctors Dr Zoe Norris and Dr Katie Bramall-Stainer as he welcomes the British Medical Association’s pledge to conduct a full investigation.

“The NHS: it’s a caring organisation. That’s what it does. And yet, sometimes it doesn’t care enough about its own workers.

“So yes, we need more staff, more resources, better technology, and on my watch, we will have all of those.

“But more than anything we need to create a more caring, a more compassionate culture,” he will say.

Dr Samantha Batt-Rawden, who chairs The Doctors’ Association UK, said: “We are pleased to see the Secretary of State championing gender equality within the NHS.

“The current gender pay gap, arduous rotas and inflexible working patterns are all barriers for female doctors training to become consultants or GPs, or in taking up leadership roles.

“We were particularly pleased to see the stories of doctors who spoke up during our #NHSMeToo campaign highlighted by the Health Secretary.”

Royal College of Nursing England director Patricia Marquis said: “While the Health Secretary challenges the lack of women in medicine, he must help us to shred any idea that nursing is ‘low-paid womens’ work’ too.

“Nursing has its own gender pay gap – men, who make up only 10% of nurses, often take many of the top jobs in nursing.”

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