NHS 75: Celebrations underway but surgeon reveals the sexism and discrimination that still exists

  • Zoe Barber has been told she is "too feminine and not tough enough" to be a surgeon

As celebrations continue on the day of the NHS' 75th birthday, a consultant and surgeon has told ITV News that sexism and discrimination still exists within the service.

It has taken Zoe Barber 11 years to get into medicine. She was inspired by both of her parents who were doctors.

Aged seven, she went to hospital with her dad, saw him at work and thought he was superman.

Zoe said it is frustrating to be often asked what it is like being married to a male surgeon when she herself is one.

Mrs Barber is now a Consultant Oncoplastic Breast Surgeon and Clinical Specialty Director for Breast Services at Cwm Taf Morgannwg University Health Board.

She told ITV News that "many days it is a privilege" to do her job because a lot of her patients are women and they are "delighted" to see a woman.

Mrs Barber did not make any claims about her workplace directly but instead explained that issues still exist in the wider service.

  • How Wales is marking the NHS' 75th Birthday

"Despite it being 2023, there still is unfortunately huge amount of discrimination from colleagues, from patients, from the wider public.

She recalled how, when she was heavily pregnant, she went for an exam where the examiner turned to him and said: "It's so nice that your wife has accompanied you to the exam to support you.

"It was so frustrating because the assumption was, in a couple sitting a consultant surgeon exam, that it was the man sitting the exam not the woman."

A Welsh Government spokesperson said: “It’s very disappointing to hear stories like this. We need to encourage more women to take up medical degrees and become surgeons to help provide a sustainable workforce for the NHS in Wales.”