by Latifa Patel

Get to grips with the process for this year’s BMA annual representative meeting

Location: UK
Published: Wednesday 13 April 2022
Latifa Patel

In three months’ time your BMA annual representative meeting for 2022 will take place – and preparations are moving ahead at pace.

When I stood as deputy chair of the representative body in 2019 I was elected on a manifesto of challenge, change and communication.

For me, these were the three areas I needed to address to ensure your BMA is representing you as well as possible.

I have written in previous columns in this magazine about how I have sought to address the challenges of the pandemic and how we have changed your ARM to adapt to those challenges.

This year we will be holding a hybrid ARM which will take place across three days and we will welcome those taking part in person and virtually, with accessibility and inclusivity at the heart of every decision we have made.

When it comes to communication, my third priority, I would like to ensure the wider membership is informed about how policy is made and, most importantly, how you can influence it. The deadline for submitting motions to this year’s ARM was earlier this month and the agenda committee, which is made up of eight doctors elected at last year’s meeting, will sift through the different motions to narrow them down to a number of around 45 (this was the number starred in 2019).

We usually receive up to 500. They are submitted from divisions, regional councils, branch of practice conferences, the BMA retired members conference, the junior members forum and the conference of honorary secretaries.

You may be wondering how some of those 500 submitted motions end up being debated at ARM. The agenda committee, of which I am chair but do not have a vote just as with the wider ARM, will prioritise the motions based on the information available, the types of motions submitted, the relevance to the past year and the gaps in our BMA policy book.

All motions passed remain in the book while they are being actively pursued and until they have been achieved. The committee will also look for common themes – and those motions which are particularly important and relevant to the association and the membership will be prioritised.

For example, without any intention to steer the committee, I would imagine there may be motions about the pandemic included this year. Our surveys have told us burnout and wellbeing are huge issues so I would expect motions about the workforce. And the Health and Social Care Bill is still going through Parliament so there may be some covering that process.

Each motion that comes to ARM has the potential of being in the BMA policy book for a decade or more so it is important we get it right first time. Spelling and grammatical errors matter a great deal and we have to make sure motions make sense not just in the moment but for the years ahead when people look back. Motions may be written with a stem – this meeting is concerned about… for example – and then come with a list of numbered parts.

Each part therefore must be able to stand alone and make sense and be able to be debated as such. Once the motions have been whittled down the agenda committee will go to the other branch of practice committee conferences and look at the motions passed there.

It may be that something passed at the BMA junior doctors conference, for example, will be covering an issue which is of interest or importance across the association. These motions can be shared with ARM.

Built into ARM is also the opportunity to vote for five chosen motions which aren’t prioritised for debate, giving our members direct control. For new business which occurred after the motion submission deadline we make time for emergency motions.

The creation of your ARM agenda is a detailed and lengthy process but it could hardly be more important, and I am committed to ensuring you are in touch and know how you can be involved. We are a movement of 163,500 doctors.

This is your association and I want you to have your voice heard within this movement.

Dr Latifa Patel is interim chair of the BMA representative body