Posted by: Witch Doctor | April 26, 2007

Medical women 1986



In 1986 Isobel Allan was commissioned by the Department of Health to investigate the implications of having a 50% female intake into medicine. (Ref 1). A follow-up study was commissioned and published in 1994 (Ref 2).

Therefore the DOH has been aware for many years that this demographic change was likely to have very significant consequences.

The Witch Doctor is of the opinion that the commissioning of these reports makes 1986 the birthday of Modernising Medical Careers. The infant MMC, however, was not given a name until in his late teens many years later. Much of what is happening in the NHS now should be interpretated in the context of a numerically expanding female medical workforce which, because of part time work and periods of inability to work, can have the overall effect of substantially diminishing the overall medical workforce. It also renders workforce planning unpredictable.

Add to this the constraints imposed by the European Working Time Directive. Add also the demographic changes of the baby boomers not only retiring from the workforce, but also becoming ill. Add to this the recently introduced time sensitive consultant and GP contracts (which may or may not have been an error of judgement by the government), and there is the potential of a crisis in medical manpower of immense proportions.

Presumably this is why Sir Liam Donaldson repeatedly says we are not overproducing doctors.

Below is an extract of the way things were as perceived by Isobel Allen.

“In 1986, many trainees had to work 120 hours a week and move to different locations every few months. Women were asked the most outrageous questions at interviews, the old boy network and behind the scenes telephone calls were dominant factors in the selection process, and women who wanted to reduce their hours to spend time with their children were not regarded as proper doctors.” Isobel Allen

It is now 21 years later. The coming of age.

Or, the coming home to roost.


1. Allen I. Doctors and their careers. London: Policy Studies Institute, 19882. Allen I. Doctors and their careers: a new generation. London: Policy Studies Institute, 1994

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  1. […] to The Witch Doctor that MTAS/MMC was only a tiny part of a much bigger picture that involved serious demographic change, an impending international bear market, and the ultimate transfer of international economic power […]

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