The British Medical Association - potential untapped
To the average medical student the BMA can seem an enigma. It’s a vast organisation, led by 34-member BMA Council, countless committees, and a 600 staff strong secretariat. Last week was the Annual Representative Meeting (ARM), bringing together 600 doctors and medical students to debate motions and adopt policy for the year ahead.
This ARM was more significant than most, coming off the back of the first industrial action by doctors in 40 years, and the chaotic aftermath of the Health and Social Care Act. Resolve was strong throughout – beginning when the representative body called for the Act to be repealed in full on the first day of the conference. As time progressed and debate moved to NHS pensions the betrayal felt by medical students and doctors seemed very real. Only four years ago the government agreed on a sustainable pension package for NHS staff. When one hears Danny Alexander, Chief Secretary to the Treasury, say “the new pensions will be substantially more affordable to alternative providers”, it is hard not to consider the renewed pension talks intimately coupled to the privatisation attack on the NHS. This was recognised throughout the conference and doctors called for further industrial action if talks were not restarted, considering a range of options.
Incredibly, on the final morning of the ARM representatives adopted policy expressing no confidence in Andrew Lansley, and calling for his resignation from government. Dr Gary Marlowe described it perfectly: “I do not trust that man.”
Throughout the ARM, Medsin was in strong attendance, seeking to represent the views of the many global health enthused medical students around the country. Representatives of Medsin gave speeches on the destruction consequences of the NHS reform for health equity and the extensive conflict of interest of parliamentarians in the passage of the Bill.
Leading Medsin members also brought motions to the ARM. The BMA is a powerful vehicle for change, catalysed by a budget of over £100 million per annum, and definitely one we should be tapping into more and more. The BMA is a representative organisation, a trade union of doctors and medical students. Thus, if one medical student member believes passionately about an issue, they can submit a motion to the Medical Students Conference or their regional division. This motion can then be brought to the ARM and you have the opportunity to propose it as BMA-wide policy and put this manpower and financial clout behind your cause. And that’s exactly what happened: numerous motions came forward from Medsin members and we’re pleased to report all are now the official policy of the BMA.
Khalil Secker brought two motions to the ARM, one asking for the BMA to add their voice and call for the adoption of the Robin Hood Tax, and one calling on the BMA to lobby the UK government to increase international aid on the MDGs, later amended to include policy on the post-2015 MDG agenda. Medsin Manchester branch president, Zainab Jawad, brought a motion on the teaching of forensic medicine to prepare future doctors with the knowledge to best refer rape victims.
Over the last week I’ve learnt the importance of going outside of your immediate circle. Rather than preaching to the choir we need to be converting the wider profession and the general public, and in doing so we can strengthen our voice with the might of the medical profession.