At least 100 Jewish doctors to miss GPs conference due to Rosh Hashanah clash

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At least 100 Jewish doctors to miss GPs conference due to Rosh Hashanah clash

Professional body with more than 50,000 members schedules gathering for 3 and 4 October

Euston Square HQ of the Royal College of General Practitioners. Pic: Wikipedia
Euston Square HQ of the Royal College of General Practitioners. Pic: Wikipedia

The representative professional body for 53,000 GPs in the UK has arranged its 2024 annual conference across both days of Rosh Hashanah, forcing more than 100 Jewish members to miss this year’s event.

The Royal College of General Practitioners (RCGP) event takes place on 3 and 4 October in Liverpool with sessions on issues including equality, diversity and inclusion.

One leading London-based GP who will not be able to attend told Jewish News: “There is a readily available, detailed NHS Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Calendar which clearly lists key dates for faith and other groups, including specifying the dates of the Jewish new year. The fact that the Royal College of GPs has elected to set its two-day annual conference on both days of the Jewish new year adds to Jewish doctors’ feeling of exclusion based on our Jewish faith.”

Jewish News understands that at least 100 Jewish doctors say they feel excluded by the conference timing.

Specialist paediatric dietitian Nicole Rothband told Jewish News: “I contacted the BDA (British Dietetic Association) to inform them that they were planning a study day on one of the High Holy Days and Jewish dietitians like myself would be unable to attend. They sent an immediate response thanking me for notifying them and assuring me that they would avoid these dates. I feel that the BDA, which is my professional association and union takes EDI (equality, diversity and inclusion) extremely seriously and is an exemplar to all similar organisations. This is particularly important when antisemitism is rising and Jews are feeling increasingly marginalised and excluded.”

The news comes among claims of ever-increasing levels of antisemitism and anti-Israel sentiment within the medical profession in the UK. In January, a number of Jewish doctors quit the British Medical Association (BMA) in protest at a letter sent to the government urging a ceasefire without mentioning the Hamas atrocities of 7 October or hostages held in Gaza.

Professor Margaret Ikpoh, chair of the RCGP group that organises annual conference, said: “We are very sorry that this year’s conference coincides with Rosh Hashanah and apologise unreservedly to our Jewish members for the offence caused to them. We always aim to make sure that the event does not take place at the same time as other important events and festivals. However, as we need to book our venues several years in advance, we are also constrained by their availability, and this does limit when we can hold the event. Unfortunately, these particular dates were the only option available to us for this year.

“We will continue to balance future dates with our venues to ensure we hold the event at the best time for all members and we have already confirmed that the next two years, for which our venues are secured, do not clash with Rosh Hashanah. Once again, we apologise for this year’s clash and wish to reassure our members that we are working hard to ensure that future conferences are accessible to all.”

A Jewish GP and RCGP member told Jewish News: “The RCGP response is clearly a smokescreen and demonstrates that they just don’t care enough to be inclusive and Jewish GPs don’t count! There are thousands of venues that, if booked ahead, could have accommodated them on other dates. It just isn’t a priority to be inclusive to Jewish doctors. Where is their EDI policy? Why aren’t Jewish doctors needs considered? If you wouldn’t do the conference on Eid or Christmas, you shouldn’t be doing it on the Jewish high holidays either.”

A consultant physician at the North Middlesex hospital said the “apology just is not credible”, asking whether the RCGP is saying they knew ” that choosing these dates would exclude Jewish doctors, but they could not find another venue in any city in the UK, so they went ahead regardless? That actually feels worse than saying that they just didn’t check. Either way, failing to comply with their own EDI policy on their biggest meeting of the year is shocking, and excludes a minority group from attending.”

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