27 to 29 June sees the most crucial event in the BMA’s policy-making calendar, your annual representative meeting, which this year takes place in the city of Brighton while also being publicly streamed live online.
Ahead of this important event, your ARM agenda committee, and myself as chair, have started our analysis and prioritisation of the motions you submitted for debate. For many, the process by which your agenda is drawn up appears at face value to be a rarefied exercise shrouded in secrecy.
I must confess that way back when I was a grassroots member, I too thought the same. Please be assured that it shouldn’t be, we don’t intend it to be and it is not. My primary role as chair is to allow the representative body, those attending ARM, to make a fully informed choice when voting, following a fair, honest and open debate.
My challenge is that we can only prioritise less than 10 per cent of the motions submitted. While we would love to debate every motion submitted to us, time constraints make this impossible, leaving us with the enormously difficult job of prioritising the motions we receive. With this in mind, I would like to take this opportunity to provide a greater insight into the work of myself and your eight elected ARM agenda committee members, and the expert staff members.
Let me explain how we as a team prioritise the motions that inform the future policy of your BMA. Among the considerations when determining a prospective motion is whether it is well-written, or more specifically whether its wording will allow it to stand the test of time if endorsed at ARM.
This is imperative as it is this wording, and not the proposer’s speech, that sits in our policy book and shapes our work. Is the motion topical and relevant? Is it in response to a dominating event or issue of the past 12 months? Most importantly – does the issue the motion concerns require action to be taken within the next 12 months? Why debate it this year? In reviewing a motion the committee and I ask to what extent its enaction as policy would see benefit in particular for our association’s membership, for our profession, as well as for patients and wider society.
Motions must be factually accurate, must not contain wording that could be considered defamatory or oppose or conflict with human rights and ideally be seeking to remedy an existing deficiency in BMA policy.
Ultimately, the aims of a motion must be realistic and something that is within the BMA’s remit to achieve. For instance, debating the contract of another profession, isn’t something we have power over.
While not every motion submitted to the committee is approved, each one is meticulously considered and evaluated by myself and my colleagues, and we thank all of you for your submissions.
Our work is made possible thanks to the support and insights of dozens of experts working in the BMA’s policy, research, ethics, communications, legal departments and the association’s equality, inclusion and culture team.
In one sense, my job as agenda committee chair is a simple one in that my chief priority is to ensure every motion put before conference is accurate, interpretable so they can be openly and effectively debated.
I can also honestly say that in my seven years as an elected agenda committee member, we have always aimed to produce an agenda that is fair and representative of all our members.
Critically, even after an annual agenda has been finalised additional motions can still be prioritised either as emergency motions for new issues, or the five chosen motions voted directly by the representative body. The single most important thing your agenda committee does is to listen to all of you.
It is only through the feedback we receive each year that we are able to refine and improve everything we do. We read every piece in detail. I look forward to the many debates to come at this year’s ARM, and welcome and urge you to make your voices heard. In the run up to your first hybrid ARM do continue to tell me what I can do to represent you better. I am listening.
Dr Latifa Patel is interim chair of the BMA representative body