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Research probes influence of gender and background on doctors’ career paths

Posted on 7 December 2015

Junior doctors who opt to become surgeons in the NHS are more likely to be male, white and from a better-off background according to new research by health economists at the University of York.


The study by researchers in York’s Centre for Health Economics (CHE) also found that junior doctors going into surgical specialties were more likely to be trained at a UK university and have university-educated parents.

Using data from the General Medical Council’s 2013 National Training Survey, Idaira Rodríguez Santana and Professor Martin Chalkley found that in general junior doctors from better-off socioeconomic backgrounds are less likely to go into general practice than  other specialties. The research also confirmed a persistent gender gap – more surgeons are male and more GPs are female.

The researchers say that significant differences in gender, ethnicity, schooling background and parental education may make the medical profession less representative of society at large and influence perceptions of the NHS and the medical profession

Idaira Rodríguez Santana said: “Our analysis confirms that the well-known gender gap in certain specialties is also present in this new cohort of medical trainees. The gap is greatest between general practiceand surgical specialties. While the causes of these differences are not well understood, the development of concrete and targeted policies aimed at addressing the gender gap should be a priority.”

Professor Chalkley added: “The substantial role of socio-economic background in determining which specialties doctors choose is surprising and is something that the profession needs to understand better.”

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