UK consultants committee – how can I get involved?

by Den Langhor

Speaking up and influencing the BMA’s work is hugely rewarding from a personal perspective – and more important than ever to our profession

Location: UK
Published: Friday 25 March 2022
42360 Den Langhor

Have you ever found yourself saying, why doesn’t the BMA do this or do that? Wondered about how you could be a part of the BMA’s UK CC (consultants committee)? What your role would be? And what you would get out of the experience? We understand that it can all feel a bit complicated and daunting, so here’s an overview of the various opportunities.

There could not be a more important time for you to get involved as the health system buckles under intolerable pressure, we continue to deal with the COVID-19 emergency, and we work to tackle the long-standing inequalities in our pay and pensions.

When I got involved with the UK CC, I was a fairly new consultant and noticed a seat on our LNC (local negotiating committee) became available at my trust. I decided to run as I realised that on our LNC, younger consultants, women and acute specialties were all under-represented. I ticked all those boxes, and wanted to lend my voice in negotiations with the trust on issues affecting doctors. I’m so glad I did. You need a diverse LNC to really capture how different issues affect different groups, and then you can work to improve things for your colleagues.

I enjoyed it so much, when the time came to allocate LNC members to the regional consultants committee I put myself forwards. From there I moved to the UK CC and haven’t looked back. I ran for election for a variety of other roles on the committee: I am one of the trained negotiators and sit on the pay and terms and conditions subcommittee; I’m part of CC equalities group looking at how we can improve diversity in the committee membership; and I’m the committee’s specialty lead for emergency medicine.

What are BMA committees and why are they important?

Committees play a vital role at the BMA. They represent members’ views across branches of practice, specialisms, and professional activities, and give expert views and opinions to shape our strategies and policies. The UK CC is the only body that represents all consultants and specialists in the UK. It deals with all matters affecting consultants, whether or not they are BMA members – from lobbying on healthcare policy issues and professional issues, to negotiating national terms and conditions.

It has three subcommittees, overseen by each of the deputy chairs: pay and terms and conditions; healthcare policy; and development, communications and professionalism. There are lots of opportunities to get involved in the different sub-structures, and to take on different roles. We also have a specialty leads group – which represents the different specialties – and a conference agenda committee, which plans the annual conference.

It’s important that our committees, and specifically the CC, reflect our increasingly diverse workforce. Having a diverse committee will strengthen our ability to stand up for you, both individually and collectively, on a wide variety of policy and employment issues. It allows us to respond and influence effectively on issues affecting your working lives and wider public health. We need the views of those in minority groups to make us more responsive to our members’ diverse needs, and more representative in our policy-making and negotiating.

What would my role be?

As a member of the committee, you would be expected to:

  • attend four committee meetings a year (they are usually all-day meetings with 50% held virtually and 50% in person at BMA House). There are options to join virtually if you cannot attend the in-person meeting, and childcare is available
  • contribute to the work of the committee (through debate, electronically or responding with thoughts and comments on policy documents shared with us)
  • prepare for meetings, so you can participate in the debates
  • consider both your own views and the views of any branch of practice, group of the profession or organisation you represent
  • assume various roles as needed, eg helping with projects in your area of expertise
  • ensure views of your local area are fed back to the national committee during debates.

What will I get out of it?

Reflecting the views of your colleagues, raising the profile of your specialty and influencing the direction of the profession are hugely rewarding, which is why many of us seek office. You’ll also develop your medico-political and leadership skills.

For me, it’s been a steep learning curve but there’s so much support and mentorship from existing members. My specialty has had a tough few years, and being on the committee has been brilliant – I’ve been able to bring our issues to the table and help shape BMA policy in the changes we lobby for. As the BMA lead for my specialty I get to attend meetings with the college to look at how we can collaborate, and I’ve undertaken lots of media work to get our messaging out (the BMA provides great training for this).

And as a member of the pay, terms and conditions subcommittee I get to help drive forwards our work on the pay issues facing us all. It’s nice to feel like I’m actually doing something about it, rather than just complaining. Both this subcommittee and UK CC as a whole are great places to be, full of like-minded, passionate people who just want to make things better for their colleagues. 

How do I get in?

There are a few different routes to election. The main routes are via RCCs (regional consultant committees) and our annual representative meeting elections. Getting involved locally through your RCC has huge benefits and rewards, and will be a great precursor in helping you decide if you’re interested in being a part of the national committee.

1. Your regional consultants committee

RCCs are the representative bodies for all consultants in their region. RCC members are elected to the consultants committee and provide an important link between the national body and the BMA locally. RCCs are a source of regional expert advice for directors of public health, deaneries, regional advisory committees on clinical excellence awards, strategic health authorities and local authorities.

There are 13 RCCs in England, and they usually meet four times a year to discuss the latest issues affecting consultants in their regions. Each trust sends at least two representatives. Trusts with over 200 BMA consultant members send three representatives.

Once you are a member of the RCC you will be eligible to put yourself forward for election to the UK CC – these elections are held annually and run by each individual RCC.  For more information please visit our RCC webpage, and contact your local RCC secretary for the election timetable. Please also contact your MSC or LNC chair to ask whether any seats are still available.

2. Annual representative meeting

Another route to the national committee is through our annual representative meeting. There are elections for 10 places to the UK CC – all consultant members of the BMA are eligible to stand for these roles. Of the 10 seats at least one must be filled by a consultant member in Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland. These elections usually take place prior to the meeting; this year’s ARM is on 27-29 June 2022.

3. Your national committee (Northern Ireland, Scotland, Wales)

There are no RCCs in Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland. Local representation comes from elections held from each health board, LNC, or the HSC trusts. Each nation elects seats to their national committees. The committees then appoint members to the UK CC (Wales appoints 2 members, Northern Ireland appoints 2 members and Scotland appoints 6 members). One of these seats is given to the chairs of each of the national committees. Find out more:

4. Committee visitor schemes

The BMA also runs a committee visitor scheme. Visitors can attend meetings and learn more about how committees discuss and influence decisions that affect the medical profession. For many, it's a chance to experience the process before deciding to stand as an elected representative.

There’s a separate visitor scheme for consultants who attend the BMA’s UK consultants conference – at each conference we invite delegates to submit applications to be a part of the UK CC as a visitor for one year, until the next conference. There are three places available through this route. If you are planning to attend the conference in 2023, places will open early next year. Make sure to register for the conference in the autumn and details will be sent to you.

How does the election process work?

The BMA uses an online system for committee and conference elections. Find out more here, including how to vote and nominate yourself as a candidate, and see the current and upcoming elections.

If you have any questions about the process or anything related to this blog, please email us.

We hope this has shed some light on the various processes and routes into the UK CC. Now more than ever we need engagement from consultants around the country. The BMA as a union is only as strong as its members; there is much to put right, and we can only do that together. Please do get involved if you can.

Find out more about the consultants committee