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Hello and thank you for reading this, my first presidential blog. During the term of my office I intend to offer a series that will share with you insights gained from my activities, whilst also offering reflections and challenges.
Since the BMA was founded in 1832, it has had a pivotal role to play in shaping how health services are delivered to those in need of them. Yet, never in our 183 years of history has Horace’s aphorism carpe diem – seize the day – been more relevant than now. He reminds us that we must take action for the future today.
We emerge from seismic changes in the political landscape across all four countries of the UK, and a new Government is taking shape against a backdrop of on-going financial austerity driving changes to services that will impact on our professional lives and the quality of care for our patients
The debates at the ARM exposed the anger and deep frustration of our members over the turmoil in our NHS generated by politicians and cuts to funding and services, and I share and support wholeheartedly the outrage so passionately expressed by our council chair Mark Porter in his opening speech.
The pressures and challenges on all aspects of the health service are immense, but none more so than in primary care. Let me put my own card on the table immediately in my support for British primary care – it is precious and I know this to be the case from having trained and lived with my young family in a European country that does not have general practice as we know it. Trying to find a wise doctor when one of our little girls was ill was a nightmare.
This new environment demands considered, clear thinking on what it means for the BMA. How should it seize the day?
We need courage to ask some tough questions. How do we celebrate and learn from what’s good? How do we provide inspiration and role models for our younger colleagues? How should we work in partnership with others to promote the best interest of patients? Should the BMA be seen to be the ‘moral compass’ for our services? If so, how? What are your views?
So, what is the role of the president and what do you expect me to do? As Herbert Asquith said when he became Prime Minister – the post is whatever its holder chooses and is able to make of it – what a unique opportunity for me with a similar job description!
For my presidential persona I take Thaler and Sunstein’s book: Nudge: Improving Decisions about Health, Wealth, and Happiness, seeing my role to act as a ‘nudgeologist’ on the key matters that concern us.
I intend to be provocative – so fasten your seat belts now! You may disagree with what I say, but my comments are from the heart and are solely to provoke thinking and above all action!
You have given me quite a challenge – I have spent 40 years working for children, young people and families, so what can I say that will reach out to your hearts and minds in all the specialties you practice in, as well as being relevant to the patients we care for?
Well, during the next few weeks I’m going to share some of my experiences with you, signalling from each how they can be generalisable and made relevant to all of us wherever we work.
Overall, I see my task to support the BMA representative body and council, whilst challenging us robustly on how we can build on our substantial achievements to date to make the BMA even more effective in what it does for us as professionals and for the health and well-being of all people in our four countries.
I intend to meet as many of you as I can though attending committees in BMA House, and also through visits to regional councils and divisions – and I welcome your suggestions on how these can be effective and of benefit. I’m also happy to be contacted directly with your thoughts, reactions and suggestions on how I, as president, can build on the substantial achievements of my predecessors.
Sir Al Aynsley-Green is BMA President