Your BMA: winter woes

by Latifa Patel

The BMA offers services which will be indispensable during the coming winter crisis

Location: UK
Published: Monday 24 October 2022
Latifa Patel

I would like to welcome the new medical student and doctor members of the BMA – nearly 6,500 of you joined our association from July to September. Our profession – and NHS – needs a strong BMA.

We need a trade union which fights for better terms and conditions, speaks up about the state of our places of work, and represents us so we can care for patients. This month, many of you will make your first subscription payments for BMA membership.

The cost-of-living crisis is making it a difficult time for so many people – many of us are making decisions about what we spend our money on and whether we need to change our habits.

These are issue on which the BMA is campaigning right now – including through a major pay restoration campaign. And the BMA is constantly advocating for medical students and doctors struggling financially. In last month’s issue of this magazine, we told the stories of several medical students in financial difficulty, including sixth-year student Joe Tonge who is working three jobs – for his university, in a clothes shop and tutoring – to try to make ends meet, but still feels under great pressure.

In my view, it is probably more vital than it has ever been to have BMA membership at this worrying time – when our livelihoods and careers are more precious than ever. But, in case you aren’t sure, I would like to explain some of the benefits to membership of your union and professional association to ensure you get the most from your membership.

Immediately upon signing up to the BMA my top-three instant benefits to familiarise yourself with would be to have your contract checked, ensure you are familiar with the BMA’s wellbeing services and the relevant contact details are saved on your phone, and that you are logged into the BMA’s learning and development services – there are scores of free and discounted events and courses so you can learn at your own pace, wherever you are.

That contract-checking service is crucial and now is the right time of year to take advantage. Whether you have a new contract, you have just signed or yours is an older contract you never had checked it is important you contact us – you can do this on the phone or online. This service means you can be sure what your rights are and that you are being treated properly.

It also means the BMA, the only national negotiator of all doctors’ contracts, can keep tabs on how local employers are implementing contracts. Our wellbeing services are available to you – 24/7 – whenever you need them. They are confidential services, free of charge.

The services, which include six free counselling sessions if needed, are also available to your partner and dependants. As we head into another winter of undoubted crisis, with 130,000 vacancies in secondary care and 6.8 million people on the waiting list, we know there will be difficult times for all of us.

Please do contact our wellbeing services whenever you feel you might need help or support. Our learning and development services can make a huge difference to your career too. You can access courses, events, The BMJ and the BMA library and so much of the content is available online.

There is much more to BMA membership. We will stand up for you if you are in difficult circumstances with your employer, colleagues or regulator. And if you need legal support BMA Law is available to you. Our legal teams, specialists in helping doctors, can support you in a wide range of areas from mortgages to wills.

We also have partners to provide you with insurance advice and immigration advisory services. Help is available for so many areas of our working and personal lives. Perhaps above all else, BMA membership is an opportunity to make your voice heard. Some 3,000 of our nearly 170,000 members are now in elected positions whether locally, regionally, nationally or internationally. Each one of those people is elected to represent you – to advocate for you.

Please get in touch with them and allow them to amplify your voice – and consider standing for election yourself. Get involved and make the most of every aspect of your BMA membership.

You can contact me via email at [email protected]

Dr Latifa Patel is chair of the BMA representative body