Female medical students from the University of Warwick have claimed to face sexism from both staff and patients during their placements at University Hospital Coventry.
The establishment is part of the University Hospitals Coventry and Warwickshire (UHCW) NHS Trust, which the anonymous students have sent complaints to.
They revealed to the Coventry Telegraph that they have received regular sexist comments from patients and less favourable treatment than their male counterparts, in some instances referred to as nurses.
A staff member told one of the students that “women shouldn’t become doctors because they go off and have babies which is bad for the NHS”.
Another student said that a patient demanded oral sex from her in front of a group of people.
Alongside the alleged mistreatment from UHCW staff and patients, the students claim they were encouraged to fulfil ‘softer’ disciplines such as General Practice, Dermatology, Gynaecology and Obstetrics.
One of them were told: “You can’t be an orthopaedic surgeon because you are a woman and not strong enough.”
According to Coventry Telegraph, the students added that they believe sexism is not treated as seriously as other forms of discrimination, such as racism.
We openly promote our values which include compassion, respect and openness and expect our staff to demonstrate these values
– UHCW NHS Trust
“As a woman of colour, I have never experienced racism at work because people know that that is wrong and not acceptable,” one shared. “Sexism on the other hand is seen as fair game.”
The female students have reported the comments to the UHCW NHS Trust although they are not satisfied with the response they received, as some staff members who made sexist comments were told to write reflections.
Responding to the Coventry Telegraph, the trust stated that investigations are underway and added: “We will not tolerate any disrespectful behaviour from our staff and where there is evidence this is happening we will take action.”
“We openly promote our values which include compassion, respect and openness and expect our staff to demonstrate these values,” they said.
They affirmed that their “Dignity at Work” policy ensures a “supportive environment” and includes help for those who have any concerns.
The trust added: “We have a zero tolerance approach in relation to any form of discrimination and will ensure that this feedback is shared within our organisation so there is no recurrence of these alleged behaviours.
“We work in close collaboration with Warwick Medical School and we know they also encourage their students to raise concerns to their supervisors or mentors.”
Regarding the revelations, the school commented: “Warwick Medical School works with all partner NHS Trusts to ensure that student placements offer positive experiences for all of our students.
“There are clear processes in place for raising concerns about any form of discrimination and students can do this directly with their NHS placement provider or via the Medical School.
We need more female doctors in leadership roles especially in fields like surgery
– Anonymous Warwick student
“Assurance that processes for raising concerns are in place and are known to students is obtained by the School through quality monitoring visits to our partners.
“We are confident that all concerns raised about such issues are managed by the Trust and the School is always kept informed of the actions taken.
“Issues related to discrimination are taken very seriously by the School and students are proactively encouraged to raise these – we have zero tolerance of such issues and work collaboratively with all partners and our students to further the critical agenda of equality.”
In January, the British Medical Journal published a report which revealed that 59% of the female surgeons surveyed had encountered gender bias and discrimination whilst working at UK hospitals.
Overseas, it emerged last year that female students applying to Tokyo Medical University had their test scores altered so that the number of women study medicine at the institution can be kept in check.
“The changes need to be cultural,” one of the students said. “We need more female doctors in leadership roles especially in fields like surgery.”