BMA Scotland chair of council speech to ARM 2023

Dr Iain Kennedy, BMA Scotland, speech to the 2023 Annual Representatives Meeting.

Location: Scotland
Audience: All doctors
Updated: Wednesday 5 July 2023
Iain Kennedy

Thank you Chair, Good Morning RB –

It is my absolute privilege to address you for the first time as the Chair of BMA Scottish Council.

I want to first thank all our BMA Scotland staff for your tireless work over the past year.

Thanks to my deputies, our branch of practice chairs and committee members for all your support.

Separately, I would like to especially acknowledge our National Director Jill Vickerman. After a decade at the helm, Jill is leaving at the end of this month to pursue new challenges.

You will be sorely missed by everyone, Jill. We thank you and wish you every success.

Now, RB -

you may be aware we have witnessed some big achievements in BMA Scotland this year:

We conducted a successful strike ballot for our junior doctors – with a resounding 97% voting for strike action. This was followed by 71% rejecting the Scottish government’s initial pay offer.

Today, Dr Chris Smith and his SJDC negotiators are in talks with the Scottish government ahead of planned strikes next week, and I want to take this opportunity to say two things:

First that the whole of the medical profession in Scotland stands together in full solidarity with our junior doctors and their fight to win fair pay.

Secondly and equally, as Dr Smith has said himself – I do hope that today the Scottish government agrees to pay junior doctors fairly, so that the need to strike can be averted.

BMA Scotland has negotiated new contracts for Staff, Specialty Doctors and Associate Specialists, with key improvements to pay, out of hours’ arrangements and new work-life balance safeguards.

We recognise that our SAS doctors are an integral part of Scotland’s NHS.

Scotland’s hospitals are struggling with waiting lists. There is deep unhappiness, anger and disillusionment among Scotland’s consultants.

BMA Scotland stands in full support of consultants in England and your strong mandate for industrial action to fix consultant pay.

In Scotland we commissioned a joint report on the sheer scale of consultants taking early retirement and we urged the Scottish government to act immediately to rectify this.

GP surgeries in Scotland are collapsing under workload pressure.

We produced a sustainability dashboard for General Practice, exposing the relentless pressures on Scotland’s GPs and the severe impact this is having on patient services.

We have published doctor vacancies heatmaps which show the whole of Scotland is failing to recruit and retain doctors across both primary and secondary care. These heatmaps display the medical workforce crisis which is letting down patients and heaping additional pressures on doctors.

Fixing the retention of doctors must be the priority. Recruitment alone is futile. Which is why we were so disappointed yesterday, with the below inflation pay award announced by the Scottish Government. It just won’t be enough to even begin to reverse pay erosion or address the workforce crisis we face.

We will now urgently consult our members as we determine our next steps for the whole profession.

We do meet regularly with our politicians, and we have secured a commitment from First Minister Humza Yousaf to begin a national conversation on the future of health care in Scotland.

And when I meet Scotland’s Cabinet Secretary for Health, Michael Matheson, next month I will be asking him about the Scottish government’s progress on starting this crucial work.

And RB –

As a former whistle-blower on bullying in NHS Highland, I know all too well what it’s like to stick your head above the parapet.

I want all my colleagues in Scotland to feel they can raise concerns without fear of being labelled a troublemaker.

In 2021/22 across Scotland’s 14 territorial health boards, a total of 96 whistleblowing concerns were officially raised. But I fear that we still aren’t doing anywhere near enough to support Scotland’s doctors to speak up.

Our recent snap survey of doctors suggests almost half – 48% – are frightened to raise concerns around patient safety or inappropriate behaviour. It’s shameful that we work in an NHS where some doctors feel they can’t speak up on behalf of patients without repercussions for themselves and their careers.

As you know, RB –

It’s simply not good enough. Our patients are our number one priority, and all of Scotland’s doctors should feel free to speak up without fear or favour.

We have seen some positive changes – such as the introduction of whistleblowing champions. But that’s not enough. We need a complete culture change.

One Scottish doctor made clear what is needed, saying:

There will be no improvement in raising concerns “until senior management’s entire ethos changes to one which values staff.”

That doctor added that the “Scottish government cannot dodge responsibility” because “the NHS acts under their instruction.”

Therefore RB,

my message to the Scottish government is clear – value us. Value us through actions, not just words.

If we can work in a system where we are genuinely listened to, in well-staffed supportive services, then working conditions will improve and, crucially, patient experiences and outcomes will too.

We need a wholescale shift to a culture based on learning, rather than blame and finger pointing.

Yes RB -

An NHS where everyone feels free to speak up will be safer for patients and doctors. We will save lives.

Thank you.

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