I have recently been appointed as your new acting representative body chair.
As your representative I would like to take this opportunity to say hello.
I was elected as your deputy RB chair in 2019 having previously taken on a number of local and national roles in the association, including on the BMA medical students committee, junior doctors committee and agenda committee.
Very few people outside of the BMA know what my role as RB chair means. I think that is a shame – and it’s something I would like to try to address during my time in office.
The first part of my job is to represent the RB; the medical students and doctors who come together once a year for the annual representative meeting, where we make policy for the BMA to act on. That is a group of around 600 people who represent our 159,000 members from across the UK and the profession.
The other main part of my role is to represent the views of the wider membership – to make sure your voices are heard as widely as possible. My role requires me to be neutral.
I will take the experiences, reflections and ideas of members to branches of practice committees, to the BMA council or the board of directors. And I will support the BMA to amplify your views in the wider society.
While the BMA has many representative structures – and increasingly diverse representation – the reality is that even with all the different regional and national committees only a fraction of the membership is directly involved. These are important, powerful, structures – but they are only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to involving our membership in our work.
My foremost priority in this role is to talk to members, and for that to be a two-way conversation – not just me speaking at you. Whenever my time in the position comes to an end it would be my proudest achievement if I had been able to listen, to engage and to amplify the views of as many of our members as possible. To increase our membership footprint.
I know from my communications with members – through this column, features in this magazine, social media and emails – that people who are not necessarily active in BMA structures do wish to engage with us and do have stories to tell and experiences to share.
I want you to help me understand how I can best facilitate that process. How would you like to talk to us? Do you want the continued use of surveys, which have been so useful during this pandemic? Is the best way of communicating through our FPC (First Point of Contact) system where you can leave us messages? Would you like us to hold surgeries?
Or should we utilise social media more – with ‘ask me anything’ – type slots, for example? I want our methods of communication to be the ones that offer you the best opportunity to have your say. Please get in touch and let me know how I can help your voice to be heard.
I’d also like your views on the BMA’s ARM. The association is reviewing it – looking at the way it works and whether things need to be changed to ensure we are representing members as best as possible.
I want to hear your reflections so we can feed those into the process. I want to know if members understand how the ARM works, whether you know who represents you there and how policy made at the ARM influences the BMA during the rest of the year. I want you to tell me how the voices of members should influence decisions the BMA board and council make outside of the ARM when they have to react to events.
I firmly believe the greatest attribute of this association is our strength in numbers. In every forum, in every meeting, and on every stage we are a trusted voice for 159,000 doctors across the country and across the profession.
We are a powerful pool of talent, experience and expertise and we must make the absolute most of that collective strength. To do that to the best of our ability I want to make sure we are constantly looking to improve our communication and engagement. And the best way to do that is if you tell us how we can be better. Please get in touch and let me know.
Latifa Patel is acting chair of the BMA representative body