During the early days of my BMA activism, I found myself tasked with making the arrangements for the medical students’ and juniors doctors’ dinner.
During this process, I was approached by another member who advised that they would be unable to attend the meal as they were convinced their complex dietary needs would make eating anything from the menu all but impossible.
After carefully listening to this member’s various requirements, we were able to ensure the venue’s kitchen made suitable adjustments, in such a way that this individual was able to join their friends and colleagues rather than be excluded.
While this anecdote might seem rather inconsequential, it in fact serves as an excellent metaphor for the kind of change in ethos I and your annual representative meeting team are committed to bringing to the ARM.
The ARM is the most significant policymaking event in the association’s calendar, yet I know most of you don’t know what it is and many of you would struggle to attend let alone have input into its proceedings.
Historically, ARM has required participants to take the best part of a week off work thereby potentially resulting in a loss in earnings or necessitating the arrangement of locum cover for some of our GP colleagues, and of course our hospital colleagues finding it difficult to secure trade union or professional leave.
Add the need to travel, and source carer support, it is understandable many members who would wish to add their voices to policymaking feel unable to. It is my belief the ARM and the BMA should be moulded around the needs and priorities of the membership rather than the other way around.
To this end, I am proud to announce that this year’s conference, which will be taking place in Liverpool on 3-5 July, will see important changes designed to broaden and facilitate accessibility and inclusivity. This includes the introduction of 83 additional seats available via BMA divisions, and specifically targeted at new attendees to ARM.
I would strongly encourage new members to apply for these seats, particularly if you’ve never been to an ARM before and if you aren’t involved in the electoral structures of the organisation. This year’s conference will see the debut of a spectators’ gallery, the aim of which will be to allow doctors and medical students from the ARM’s host city the chance to observe proceedings and access the other exhibitions and facilities of the conference.
While those attending ARM as observers will not be able to vote on motions, it is my hope that having the chance to see conference in action will inspire many to attend as delegates in future. It is of course worth noting that, for all those outside of Liverpool wanting to follow the debates and decisions of this year’s ARM, the conference will, once again, be streamed in its entirety live via the BMA website.
Equality is one of the core principles of the BMA and something which runs through the heart of ARM, but equally important is the concept of equity.
Putting yourself forward as a speaker at ARM is one of the most important contributions a member can make, and I know from experience how daunting it can be to stand and address a packed-out and expectant auditorium.
Recognising public speaking is not as straightforward for some members as it is for others, this year’s ARM will, for the first time, see reasonable adjustments made to speaking-time allowances depending on an individual’s needs.
Evolving and reshaping our structures to meet the needs of our membership is crucial to this, and we will always strive to support and empower members by making the changes you need. For us to do this though, it is vital we hear from you.
Dr Latifa Patel is chair of the BMA representative body