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I have been interested in strengthening the local voice for the North East for at least a decade. One of my first actions when I was elected to the UK council was to lobby for a regional structure.
Historically many have favoured a national voice above local, but greater NHS devolution and wider developments such as social media are slowly shifting that focus. The BMA has a strong national voice but I feel passionately that we need to be meaningful for members across the country. We need a regional voice to complement our already effective national presence, and that is where our regional councils are playing a key role.
Regional councils provide a forum for discussing matters of regional interest and issues affecting the profession across all branches of practice in 10 regions of England. They bring together representatives from across the medical profession; medical students and doctors from all specialties, primary and secondary and everything in between! They have a unique role in co-ordinating our local and regional structures, but for me they are an essential part of the BMA. They give a voice to any doctor who wants to influence BMA and ultimately NHS policy.
We hold stimulating meetings open to all members in the region, hear from policy experts, liaise with regional stakeholders and deliver debates, seminars and workshops on a range of topical medico-political issues. I enjoy developing relationships with and liaising with regional stakeholders. One day I might be meeting our local medical school dean, another attending a meeting with other union representatives and perhaps speaking to the local press. The variety is wonderful.
BMA council has recently approved recommendations to further enhance the role of regional councils. This is an exciting time to get involved and to help shape your new regional representative structure. We will have additional support, funding, better links to UK council and a more transparent election process which will actively involve members across the region.
We need to collaborate better across the profession, and regional councils can unite members with one purpose, and give us a genuine voice in our region. They make the BMA meaningful across England rather than a London-centric organisation.
I am proud that we have grown our regional structures relatively quickly and given a stronger voice to our members. At the last annual representative meeting, regional councils proposed well over half of the motions that ultimately became BMA policy.
But there is more to do. I want anything that affects the profession locally (sustainable transformation plans/integrated care systems) to come to the regional council. We need to become an effective representative forum for all doctors in the area – the regional hub for all local communications, campaigns and lobbying.
If you’re interested in standing for your regional council you can put yourself forward for a seat.
If you are passionate about your region and the NHS, aren’t shy to champion views and care about the working lives of your colleagues, I encourage you to get involved and find out more about our coming elections. Doctors have an important role in shaping our NHS, and regional councils are the perfect forum to do so.
Dr George Rae, GP and chair of BMA North East
Sounds like a great strategy that makes the system more efficient.