With the BMA annual representative meeting nearly upon us, I’ve been reflecting on the journey we have been on during the past 12 months, and the juncture we as doctors and as a union now find ourselves at.
I cannot think of another period during my more than 13-year involvement in the BMA in which the association has undergone so much rapid evolution and growth while also extending our efforts to become more relevant and innovative in how we represent our members.
With 185,000 doctors and medical students from across the UK now part of our BMA, we benefit from the largest membership at any point in our history, and at a time of unparalleled importance for our profession and the NHS.
This clearly represents a great achievement for our union and is a sign of strength and a powerful statement of intent going forward in terms of what we together can, and no doubt will achieve.
At the same time our increased numbers also present challenges. With more members than ever before, ensuring that we are able to represent the views and needs of the wealth of diversity in our ranks as a trade union and professional body, is more difficult yet also more critical than ever before.
Accessibility and representation are particularly important for those groups who still remain underrepresented in leadership positions in healthcare and medicine, namely women, ethnic minorities colleagues, colleagues with disabilities, long-term health conditions and carer responsibilities and members of the LGBTQ+ community.
It is with this in mind that this year’s ARM will seek to be the most open, engaging and diverse meeting in our association’s history. We really want and need to hear from you.
Many of you will already be aware of the measures we have taken to encourage this, from increasing the number of places for attendees and opportunities to observe the ARM, to reasonable adjustments being made for speakers and completely changing our platform to enable fairer and inclusive representation in debate.
As with previous years, the ARM also provides free childcare facilities in the form of an on site crèche, with a view to ensuring that those with parenting responsibilities are not needlessly excluded from voting and debate. Those with other carer needs may also be able to access funding – please do get in touch.
ARM will be livestreamed for those without a seat and I strongly encourage virtual observers to engage with us via social media. This is the meeting which decides the direction of your BMA.
Having your say can also mean putting yourself forward and standing to be an elected representative for your colleagues, with ARM seeing elections to a number of important positions in the BMA.
The nominations process, which is open to all association members, is now under way with the window for applications open until 3 July. The recently published agendas for this year’s conference demonstrate the range of issues and topics ARM always seeks to encompass and address. As I have already alluded to, however, this year’s conference is likely to be dominated by a particular area of concern, that of pay and industrial action.
With so much at stake there may be differences of opinion among you all on how we move forward, and this is exactly why I would urge all of you who wish to become active members of your association to engage in full with this year’s ARM. I know as doctors we like to be heard and we pride ourselves on speaking out on behalf of our patients when seeking to defend their interests.
What I’m asking now is that you speak on behalf of yourself, and get involved in your association and trade union, on behalf of yourself, your peers and colleagues and people who might not be otherwise represented.
If you would like to get in touch with the BMA and learn more about how you can get involved with your BMA, please write to me at [email protected] or @DrLatifaPatel – DMs always open.
Dr Latifa Patel is chair of the BMA representative body