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: Friday 9 February 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 elections.bma.org.uk.

 

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.

 

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.