Your BMA: diverse leadership

by Latifa Patel

All doctors should be given the chance to develop their leadership skills, and be involved in the decisions that affect them

Location: UK
Last reviewed: 16 September 2021
Latifa Patel

Since taking my position as interim BMA representative body chair in June, it has become increasingly clear to me what an exciting opportunity it is to have a junior doctor take up a position of leadership.

I write this column as the first new mum, first woman of colour and first junior doctor to hold the role in our association’s history. Yet I know that all of these characteristics are common in our profession. Just not in our leadership.

Diversity in leadership is as important as diversity on the ground. Most of us share the principle that our workforce should reflect our society as best it can – so why should leadership be any different? This isn’t about me. Or the BMA. It’s about all positions of leadership in medicine and healthcare. 

All junior doctors are clinical leaders. Out of hours we lead the clinical decisions in hospital and make those senior decisions. Though, of course, our consultants are available if we need them. This is sometimes overlooked but those experiences are a hugely valuable resource for the NHS and organisations such as ours. 

For assessment purposes, ‘leadership and management’ feel like tick-box competencies loosely achieved as part of the annual review of competency progression process – a rota managed here or a training session attended there. But we are already showing leadership during every shift and I think we should be encouraged to build on that and find a place in each and every room where decisions are made about our careers. 

I am fortunate enough to have a TPD (training programme director) who supported me on my leadership journey. I took an OOP (out-of-programme) experience and spent a year working with the GMC through the Faculty of Medical Leadership and Management. I gained understanding of leadership and working in a large organisation, one we are all linked to. 

For the last decade I’ve also been involved in the BMA. I’ve gained an incredible amount of leadership and management training. But this has all been on my own time. On annual leave and rest days alongside training. 

Now, however, my TPD is again supporting me. All chief officers in my role at the BMA continue their clinical frontline jobs. For me, however, as a new parent with caring responsibilities and of course being unable to train at less than 50% it wouldn’t be possible to do both. I am therefore being granted another OOP. 

This sort of route isn’t for everybody but I do believe opportunities such as these should be available to more of us and not only supported but encouraged. 

The reality is that our day-to-day working lives are demanding, stressful and exhausting. It isn’t always realistic to have significant leadership experiences while in a training post. If our assessors really want us to learn to lead and manage should there not be a specific OOP for management and leadership? An OOPML perhaps?

One of the mantras I believe in most is ‘no decisions about us, without us’. And it is with good reason. Having a diverse leadership in the rooms where decisions are made would ultimately result in them being better. 

Beyond that, we are at a crucial moment in the NHS and society. We face issues which will affect our work and life in the coming years. Why shouldn’t those who will be delivering those services participate now?

Your BMA 2021 annual representative meeting will be the first chaired by a junior doctor in our history. I know it won’t be the last!

What do you think about leadership and management training? If you’re a trainee how have you found accessing  leadership and management experience? If you’re a supervisor or a training programme director do you support those sorts of experiences? How do you think we can encourage leadership to be more diverse as a system in an organisation? Email RB[email protected]

Dr Latifa Patel is acting chair of the BMA
representative body

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