BMA as a professional association and trade union

As a professional association and trade union for doctors in the UK, the BMA is formally recognised for collective bargaining purposes at national and local levels. We represent doctors both individually and collectively, negotiating your pay and rights, and supporting you at work.

Location: UK
Updated: Friday 28 June 2024
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As a professional association and recognised trade union for doctors in the UK, no one better understands your day-to-day working lives or the challenges you face.

We provide individual and collective representation; we’re here to stand up for your rights and fight hard to champion the profession.

Every member receives protection in the workplace, and we ensure the collective interests of all doctors are defended and promoted.


We were provided with top legal advice regarding an employment tribunal and had invaluable ongoing assistance from a team of BMA staff specialists.
Junior doctor, BMA member

The doctors’ trade union

Since the inception of the NHS, we have been recognised for collective bargaining purposes within national negotiating machinery and by individual employers.

That means we’re not just the voice of the profession but have responsibility for negotiating your pay and other conditions of service at both national and local levels.

We are officially recognised by government and the DDRB (the Review Body on Doctors’ and Dentists’ Remuneration) as an association representing the views of GPs in the health service and NHS doctors in hospitals, public health and community services, employed under national agreements.

We are also one of only two organisations to give evidence to the Armed Forces’ Pay Review Body.

In 1971, we were registered as an independent trade union, and we’re currently included on the list of trade unions maintained by the Certification Officer in accordance with the Trade Union and Labour Relations (Consolidation) Act 1992.

We represent members’ interests in developing and maintaining their terms and conditions of employment.

We protect individual members and the collective interests of doctors in the workplace. We offer support in local negotiations, personal advice and assistance, and representation to and on behalf of members.

Over two thirds of practising UK doctors are in membership.


How we negotiate

As we are recognised for collective bargaining purposes, we and our representatives benefit from legislative rights, including those relating to:

  • the provision of information
  • the right to be consulted on proposed changes
  • representation of members, individually and collectively
  • facilities and time off work for accredited representatives.

Members play an integral part in our process decision making process. 

Read more about our democratic structure and governance

National negotiations

We have bargaining rights in respect of all employed doctors in the NHS, whether or not they are BMA members. Members and officers of our branch of practice committees sit on joint negotiating committees, and produce guidance on the implementation of national agreements.

We are in continual contact with ministers, government departments, members of both Parliaments, the National Assemblies and many other influential bodies. Through these contacts and the media we promote doctors’ views and campaign on health issues.

National pay scales for medical staff employed in the NHS are determined by ministers in light of recommendations from the DDRB. Each year we submit evidence to the review body. Other NHS conditions of service are agreed between the Departments of Health and the BMA.

Workplace and local negotiations 

Until NHS trusts were established in 1991, all NHS-employed medical staff were subject to national terms and conditions of service. Now, however, most NHS employers can determine the pay and conditions of service for all their staff, except doctors in training who remain subject to nationally negotiated terms and conditions. As a response to this local freedom, we introduced local negotiating committees (LNCs).

Employers are obliged to consult with and provide information to recognised trade unions and this is often through the local representative.

LNCs are now established in almost all NHS organisations that employ doctors. They meet regularly to identify issues for negotiation with local management, monitor the application of local agreements, and agree and monitor arrangements for the implementation of national agreements in their organisations.

We accredit members to act as local representatives for a particular geographic location or branch of practice within employing organisations. 

LNCs also usually nominate BMA representatives for other joint committees (such as the Joint Medical Consultative Council or health and safety committees), and work with other trade unions in areas of common interest.

Advice and representation for BMA members is provided by our team of advisers and member relations staff across the UK.


Industrial action

The ultimate sanction available to employees in dispute with their employer is to take industrial action.

To comply with industrial relations legislation and protect our position, certain important requirements – eg in relation to ballots – have to be met, and the BMA’s bye-laws carefully and clearly set out the manner in which such procedures might be authorised.

The idea of taking such action is a difficult one for many doctors, but experience shows that medical staff, acting together in the best tradition of trade unionism, remain a powerful and influential force through which a great deal can be achieved both nationally and locally.


As a professional association

We support all doctors to:

  • enjoy fulfilling and flexible careers: so that all doctors can fulfil their potential as part of a diverse and inclusive workforce
  • work within a positive culture: so that all doctors work in an environment that supports wellbeing, learning and the delivery of high quality patient care
  • lead improvements in medical practice: so that doctors are equipped to deliver the best possible care for patients
  • be part of a global medical community: so that doctors are empowered to advocate for the right to health and health-related human rights.