Writing a good motion at the BMA

Read our top tips and advice for writing a good motion and see how to submit a motion at the BMA.

Updated: Thursday 2 July 2020
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Top tips for writing a good motion

Your motion is more likely to be chosen if it comes with a call for action that the Association or branch of practice can take forward.

When writing your motion, make sure it is:

  • topical, accurate and concise
  • comprehensible and logical
  • likely to prompt good debate in a subject area on which it is desirable for the BMA to develop or change policy.

Motions should be clear statements which essentially cover:

  • the problem which needs to be solved (welcomes, regrets, deplores, denounces)
  • the principle which underlies the solution (reaffirm, recognise, declare)
  • the proposal at the heart of the motion (affirms, believes, recommends, urges)
  • start your motion with the words "That this conference..."
Do
  • Choose issues which are topical and new and not a repeat of existing policy check the existing policy database before submitting any motion.
  • Include a proposal of action as this is far more useful in shaping policy and therefore makes a better motion.
  • Use sections if you have several clear calls for action. As each section is voted on separately this allows for motions which may contain a controversial element.
  • Ensure that any subsections of a motion only deal with one point of principle and don't reference other subsections as they may be divided by the agenda committee.
  • Be concise and clear - write in plain English, explain any abbreviations and try not to go above 150 words.
  • Ask for help if you're struggling - the agenda committee can or specialty committee rep are there to assist you, so send through your ideas, drafts and questions - it's what they are there for.
  • Be original - conferences need exciting, topical debates, even if your motion fails it can still offer the conference a valuable perspective. 
Don't
  • Write long, verbose speeches or be repetitive, vague or didactic.
  • Include quotations or actual sums of money both of which run the danger of being inaccurate and thus invalidating the motion.
  • Include motions which are already policy.
  • Submit a motion with more than three parts (excluding the stem) as these will very rarely be accepted. This is at agenda committee discretion and they can disallow motions.
  • Be afraid to submit a motion. They are key to us developing and shaping BMA policy into the future. 

A sample motion

Below is an example of a previous motion, to give you an idea of the language and construction to use when writing your motion.

"That this Conference notes with dismay the inability of the National Health Service to accommodate recent outbreaks of seasonal disorders, and the resulting threats to ongoing health provision for all citizens and calls upon the Government to redress this appalling situation by:

i) Providing an immediate cash injection to underwrite an increase in high-dependency beds in all regions of the UK

ii) Funding critical care training for enough nursing staff to support the additional high dependency beds

iii) Guaranteeing to improve salaries, conditions and career prospects for nurses

iv) Taking urgent measures to attract back nurses who have left the profession"

or

"That this conference is extremely concerned at the introduction of post-CCT fellowship posts and demands that these:

i) have defined training objectives that genuinely cannot be provided within CCT

ii) be created only to meet a proven and unmet need for consultants with particular sub-specialist skills

iii) be without service commitment

iv) not continue beyond 2010"

 

How to submit a motion

Please be aware that motion deadlines occur approximately two to three months previous to conferences taking place.

Consultants conference

Motions must be submitted in advance by Medical Staff and Regional Consultants Committees.

Junior doctors conference

Members can submit motions via their RJDC representatives.

Conference of medical academics representatives

Motions are submitted via the Local Medical Committees (LMCs) and their conference representatives.

Medical students conference

Each UK medical school, MSC subcommittees, Regional Services Liaison Group, MSC (including co-optees) and devolved committees can submit motions via designated representatives.

Conference of public health medicine

Motions by anyone attending the conference can be submitted to the secretariat. If you cannot attend but wish to submit a motion, it is encouraged to ask a colleague to submit a motion in their name.

SAS conference

Motions can be submitted via regional and national SASCs to the SASC Agenda Committee.

Submitting motions to ARM 2020

This year’s ARM is scheduled to take place on 15 September 2020 as a single day, virtual event.

The deadline for motions from divisions, regional councils and some smaller branch of practice groups is 17 July 2020 at 9am.

Motions from branch of practice conferences will be considered at a meeting of the Joint agenda committee scheduled to take place on 21 July 2020.

Due to the changes to the ARM brought about by lockdown measures in place resulting from COVID-19, there will be changes to the motion drafting and submitting process, which will apply for this year only.

There will be a new screening process for motions, all motions must comply with the following criteria:

  1. require action within the nine months after ARM 2020
  2. is top priority for debate.

In order to help inform your drafting of motions you can find the latest information on:

 

Contact the motion advisory service

This motion advisory service provides:

  • advice
  • facts and figures or information on existing policy
  • helps you submit your motion correctly for consideration.

Please include your name, membership number, branch of practice and nation when contacting us, so we can respond to your enquiry as soon as possible.

Contact the motion advisory service via [email protected].