ARM Division elections

For the first time, all division ARM (annual representative meeting) seats will be elected online. Read on to find out why things are changing and what this means for you.

Location: UK
Audience: All doctors
Updated: Thursday 18 April 2024
Hand and voting card article illustration

What is the ARM

The ARM is the annual meeting of the BMA’s representative body – representatives elected by their peers, doctors and medical students, from the range of constituent bodies that make up the trade union and professional association that is the BMA. A range of policies are debated at the ARM, from pay, terms and conditions to medical ethics, global health and the future of the NHS.

ARM 2024 will be held on 24 and 25 June. It will be a hybrid meeting, with in-person attendance at the ICC Belfast and virtual attendance via an online platform.

Find out more about the ARM.


How is it changing

For the first time, elections for division representatives are being held centrally and the elections are open to all BMA members.

The organisation committee met in October 2023 to discuss and confirm the arrangements for ARM, as is usual practice. They recommended that the division elections be open to all BMA members within each division, rather than just those who attend a specific division meeting. In November this recommendation was put to UK council, who overwhelmingly supported it.

Voting in these elections closes on 13 February. To check if your division is open for voting, go to Find out how to vote and get a seat at ARM 2024. To submit your vote, please go to


Why is it changing

The decision to open up the division ARM representative elections was made to increase the opportunity for all BMA members to attend the ARM. This aligns with other changes aimed at increasing engagement with the ARM, such as virtual attendance, championed by representative body chair Latifa Patel.

Of the BMA’s 169 divisions, only 72 are currently active, so a large proportion of members do not have an opportunity to stand in their division elections at all, as the division does not meet or send representatives. Regional Councils have filled these seats through their own processes which has ensured regional representation and opportunity to attend, but these processes vary across regions.

We also know that engagement with some active divisions is low, and we wanted to give the chance to all members, perhaps 95% of which have never or rarely, attended a division meeting.

We also hope this change might increase the number of first-time attendees at the ARM, enable the BMA to effectively monitor and improve the diversity of ARM representatives, and improve the geographical spread of division ARM representatives as originally intended.


How were these changes agreed

The organisation committee discussed this change at its meeting on 17 October 2023 and UK council considered and voted on it at its meeting on 15 November. The division circular D1 sent on 25 October stated that seat allocations and the election process had not yet been confirmed.

This is allowed within our rules as the organisation committee is responsible for the oversight of division rules and council is responsible for the allocation of seats to the ARM, based on the advice of the organisation committee. The process for how the elections take place isn’t prescribed in the articles and bye-laws, and council actively voted to introduce this process in 2024 for the reasons above.


Impact of the changes

As the NHS and medical profession continue to face unprecedented pressure, there has never been a more vital time for doctors to be able to make their voices heard.

As your professional association and trade union, the BMA is only too aware that our strength and legitimacy as a representative organisation flows directly from you, our members.

In order to effectively represent and fight for the interests of all doctors, the BMA last year took steps aimed at improving our democratic systems, simplifying nominations and elections, increasing accessibility and promoting diversity among our representative body (RB).

These changes, approved by the BMA’s Council in November 2023, included the decision to open the BMA division elections to our annual representative meeting (ARM) to all divisional members, rather than limiting nominations and votes to those who are able to attend a specific division meeting.

Nominations and voting processes have been made available to all members via a secure, online platform, and it is through this transparent approach, the association hopes to increase the opportunities for the wider membership to attend ARM.

With this year’s conference just over two months away, we wanted to take this opportunity to provide a timely reflection on what effect these changes have had.

Election data for 2024 division elections so far has revealed that there has been a total of 618 nominations across all divisions, with 103 divisions contested and 42 divisions uncontested.

Analysis of nominations so far received based upon the sex and ethnicity has revealed that while there have been areas of encouraging improvement, there are also clear signs that more work is still necessary to enhance the diversity of our RB.

For example, while the percentage of Asian or Asian British members elected to attend ARM this year stands at 28 per cent and 27 per cent of nominations, Black, Black British, African or Caribbean members only made up one per cent of those elected.

Meanwhile, male members made up 69 per cent of nominees and 74 per cent of those elected, compared to just 29 per cent and 25 per cent respective of female members.

Clearly, these figures emphasise that far more work is needed going forward by the association if we are to ensure that attendance at ARM accurately reflects the diversity of our wider membership.

It should be noted however that elections for over half of the seats to the ARM remain to be held, and so these results do not provide the complete picture.

With this in mind, the association’s Culture, Inclusion and Implementation Group (CIIG) has emphasised the need to highlight to members the importance of diversity for the elections that remain.

This year has been the first time that elections via division have been conducted online making comparisons to previous years tricky.

However, the new system will allow us to bring much more transparency to the progress we are making, the areas we still need to tackle and the impact of the interventions we are taking to increase diversity.

We remain confident however that the changes as enacted set the groundwork for ARM to become even more diverse and representative in the future.

Interested in attending the ARM? Read details of how to find out if there are any seats remaining in your branch of practice.

Percentage of nominees by sex Percentage of nominees by ethnicity
Male 69% White 36%
Female 29% Asian or Asian British 27%
Blank 1% Unknown 21%
Prefer not to say 1% Prefer not to say 5%
Black, Black British, African or Caribbean 5%
Mixed or multiple ethic group 3%
Other ethnic group 2%
Blank 1%
Percentage of voters by sex Percentage of voters by ethnicity
Male 62% White 39%
Female 36% Unknown 28%
Blank 1% Asian or Asian British 18%
Prefer not to say 1% Prefer not to say 6%
Black, Black British, African or Caribbean 3%
Mixed or multiple ethic group 3%
Other ethnic group 3%
Percentage of elected by sex Percentage of elected by ethnicity
Male 74% White 41%
Female 25% Asian or Asian British 28%
Prefer not to say 1% Unknown 20%
Prefer not to say 5%
Mixed or multiple ethnic group 2%
Other ethnic group 2%
Black, Black British, African or Caribbean 1%
Blank 1%

Special representative meetings

Who can call an SRM (special representative meeting)?

An SRM can be called by the chair of RB (representative body) on the requisition of either council or 15% of the constituent bodies of the ARM, under Article 64:

Special representative meetings

  • 64. (1) Special representative meetings shall be convened at any time by the representative body chair on the requisition of the council, or on the requisition of not less than fifteen percent of the constituent bodies of the representative body entitled to appoint voting representatives under the bye-laws, provided that at the time of such requisition such constituent body is not deemed to be inactive or disorganised.


Who are the constituent bodies of the RB

The constituent bodies of the representative body are those entitled to appoint voting representatives under the bye-laws. This includes:

Conference of local medical committees, consultants conference, junior doctors conference, public health medicine conference, medical academics conference, SAS doctors conference, medical students conference, retired members conference (Total: 8)

Armed forces and occupational health committee/conference (Total: 2)

Representatives appointed by council (Total: 2): 1 forensic doctor to be nominated by the forensic and secure environments committee, 1 civilian doctor to be nominated by the armed forces committee

Divisions (Total: 169)

Regional councils (NB: regional and national councils currently are allocated seats through a redistribution of unfilled divisional seats within their geographical boundaries and have no dedicated seat entitlement of their own (Total: 10)

The conference of honorary secretaries (Total: 1)

Junior members forum (Total: 1)

Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland councils (Total: 3)

This totals 196 constituent bodies (as at January 2024), so 15% is 29 constituent bodies.


Why have there been no details of the SRM after a requisition has been received

A letter has been received signed by chairs and honorary secretaries of 38 constituent bodies requesting that an SRM be held to discuss the change to the election process.

We have asked for confirmation that members of the bodies that have signed the letter support the request, following a vote at a quorate meeting. This is to ensure that SRM is supported by members.

The most recent SRMs (in 1992, 2011 and 2016) were all requisitioned by council, following a vote at a council meeting, so this is consistent with previous processes.


Why has council not considered the request

The request has been received on behalf of constituent bodies, not by council. Council has no say in this process unless council itself makes the requisition.


Can the requisition be overturned

If evidence is provided that the requisition has the support of the members of the bodies that have requested it, there is no provision in Article 64 for a requisition from 15% of constituent bodies to be overturned. Article 64 (4) only gives the power to council to overturn a requisition that council itself has made.


When would an SRM be held and what would it discuss

14 days’ notice needs to be given before an SRM can be held (64 (2)) and the SRM can only deal with the business for which the SRM has been convened (64 (3)).

The request currently received states:

That a Special Representative Meeting (SRM) be convened as soon as is practicable in accordance with the Articles & Bye-laws of the Association, for the purpose of scrutinising the reasons, circumstances, and governance implications of decisions made by the Organisation Committee and Council regarding changes to ARM election processes.

There are lots of moving parts to organising an SRM, however previous SRMs have taken place 6 – 8 weeks after a valid requisition was received.