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In April, we staged the first ever Scottish BMA Conference. With a couple of weeks now passed, it seems like a good opportunity to reflect on the day we spent in Glasgow. Hopefully this blog will help those who were there think a bit more about what they learnt, and provide some insight for those who couldn’t make it.
In all, the conference was about 3 years in the making and at times we, the steering group, weren’t sure that it was going to take place at all. We had worked hard to promote this idea, but members of Scottish Council were rightly concerned over whether we could deliver a successful, useful event. What were we trying to achieve? Who was the conference aimed at? Would anyone even come? All these were legitimate questions we needed to answer.
There has been some long-standing frustration that the BMA can feel rather London-centric at times. The NHS in England is so different from the NHS in Scotland now that sometimes it feels as if we have little in common. We pushed ahead with the conference, as we felt it was time to show-case what the BMA can do for its Scottish members and what its Scottish members can do for it.
The theme was “The challenges of working within the NHS in Scotland” and we shaped the whole day around that – ensuring there was a clear focus on supporting members.
Professor Baroness Ilora Finlay of Landlaff kicked off the conference with her talk on the “Future of Care in Medicine”. She had some powerful and insightful views on how we need to look after ourselves in our profession in order to look after others. In particular, she asked us to reflect on how we might answer the phone to Juniors. If we sound abrupt or harsh, are we really encouraging others to ask for help – which they might desperately need?
One key quote from the speech: “we need more humanity in medicine for both doctors and patients” stood out and was tweeted by Jeeves Wijesuriya, UK JDC chair. That tweet was shared widely and clearly hit on something that resonates with a lot of medics in the wake of the Dr Hadiza Bawa-Garba case.
Building on that theme, Jeeves and his colleague Adam Collins, Scottish JDC chair, gave a very interesting and informative talk on the relevance of this case in Scotland. They explained the differences in law between England and Scotland that means that in Scotland one is much less likely to be found guilty of culpable homicide without “mens rea” (the intent to be neglectful). This was somewhat a relief to delegates attending and again enforced the need for explanation for clarity on how this case affects us all in the devolved nations.
Across the day we had a number of different workshop sessions and delegates had to choose which two they wished to attend. There was something for everyone attending the conference and all workshops well attended. We were lucky enough to be joined on the day by BMA legal advisors and financial advisers that ran sessions for those that wished to discuss individual matters. They were also present at some workshops to help facilitate discussions. I led a session on “being a working parent in the NHS” and was astounded to see several medical students who were savvy enough to attend and find out what their future might hold for them and what they should be aware of. I only wished we had more time to discuss the subject in more detail (something to consider for the next (!) conference).
After lunch, we were joined by Sir Harry Burns, the previous CMO of NHS Scotland, who gave a fascinating and engaging talk “Improving the health of Scotland’s Population – the Role of doctors”. He really outlined the difficulties we have with keeping our patients healthy and the source of a lot of the issues. “Scotland’s poor health is a reflection of the health of the poor” was a quote that will stay with me a long time and good food for thought for our delegates.
We rounded off the day with a Q&A session led by the steering committee, the workshop leaders and speakers from the day. We discussed mental health, whistleblowing, and even Brexit. I had a lot of verbal positive feedback. Delegates told me they felt “energised” and “motivated” by the conference. I even had 2 people ask me how to get more involved and become activists with the BMA. This I found particularly exciting. So how did it go? 180 delegates, smiling faces, poignant questions and further interest; I would say it went really well. A number of people have asked when the next one will take place?
We are also gathering formal feedback and I look forward to receiving it, both good and bad. Then it will be a case of taking it back to Scottish Council to try and get the next conference up and running in 2019. Watch this space……
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