Public health medicine conference

The public health medicine conference is the BMA’s representative policy-making conference for doctors working in public health. It gives attendees the opportunity to hear from experts in the field and debate motions sent in by peers.

Location: UK
Audience: Public health doctors
Updated: Monday 7 September 2020
Voting card article illustration

The public health medicine conference is the BMA's policy forum for public health doctors. The conference provides an opportunity for public health doctors from across the UK to meet and discuss key issues.


​2020 conference

The 2020 public health medicine conference took place at BMA House, London on Wednesday 26 February.

The Sandy Macara Memorial Lecture took place at the Wales Millennium Centre, Cardiff on 28 January 2020. The subject of the lecture was 'big data and public health'.

If you are interested in finding out more about the public health medicine conference or have ideas for the 2020 meeting please contact [email protected].


2019 conference

The 2019 public health medicine conference was held at BMA House on 5 March and was chaired by Southwark strategic director for place and wellbeing, Professor Kevin Fenton. The theme for the year was ’Resilience of public health systems and people’.



Good public mental health

According to Lambeth councillor Ed Davie, 26% of the borough’s population identify as Black, but this group makes up 67% of residents in secure psychiatric units. What‘s more, Black Caribbeans represent 7% of the population registered with Lambeth GPs but account for 17% of people with serious mental health issues.

Responding to these figures conference passed a resolution noting the ethnic divide in health and wellbeing and called on the public health community to be leaders in tackling race inequalities.


The wider determinants of health

The Lambeth statistics demonstrate the importance of the wider determinants of health and mental health in terms of poverty, housing, access to work and educational opportunities. The responses to these issues could, Ed Davie suggested, be applied to deprived communities across the UK.

Professionals must know, listen to and empower the populations that they work with and make sure that they are represented in policymaking.

Geraldine Strathdeen, former NHS clinical director for mental health, made a plea to public health doctors to work with their mental health colleagues to raise public mental health up the health services agenda.


The role of local authorities

Mark Trewin, mental health social care advisor at the DHSC and NHS England considered the role of local authorities in prevention and resilience in a time of austerity. He noted that, with a concentration on statutory services only, there was reduced access to social care and to the services that affect the social determinants of health.

It was noted that public health remained well commissioned, though it was struggling with the effects of cuts. A further concern was that local partnerships were collapsing and there was a retreat from integration: organisations were less willing to share and pool their diminishing resources.

The UN special rapporteur on mental health called for a revolution in mental health provision with a shift to a human rights-based approach for disabled people, and participatory, social and community-based services being developed.



Conference representatives called for the return of public health to the NHS (in part called for in the Long-Term Plan) and the restoration of the cuts made since its transfer to local authorities.

Members were not convinced that a return to the NHS was necessarily required but rather that a commitment to the necessary funding was what was needed.

Conference also called for doctors to be given the personal development tools that enabled them to take on the leadership and transformative roles required of them, and for a reduction in the burden of bureaucracy.



Conference discussed the damaging effect of Brexit on patients and on public health, noting the huge amount of resources being spent on preparing for a ‘no deal’.

Conference passed a motion that – given that the government has the power to revoke Article 50 at any time before the UK leaves the EU – no responsible government should contemplate wreaking the havoc that a no-deal Brexit would cause if it could possibly avoid it.

Conference also noted the factors that led to the vote to leave and called on all political parties, civic organisations and professional bodies to tackle and remedy the reasons why too many people felt left out and left behind.


Public health policy

​Conference passed motions on a range of public health policies from the advertising of e-cigarettes, to sugar consumption, support for homeless people and preventing homelessness and better funding for mental health services in Northern Ireland.

Watch the 2019 conference webcast