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BMA ARM – Democracy in Action

 It is called the Annual Representatives Meeting for good reason. It is all about and for the Representatives.

14 Jul 2017

The beauty of being an Observer at the BMA ARM is that you get to observe – and there is plenty to observe and learn from.

Having attended many conferences over the years – including too many AMA National Conferences over too many years – I would rate the BMA ARM the best.

It is called the Annual Representatives Meeting for good reason. It is all about and for the Representatives. This means it is all about and for the BMA members. Which in turn means it is all about and for the millions of patients spread across the United Kingdom.

Unlike most conferences, the ARM does not import guest speakers, politicians, experts, or entrepreneurs. The stars of the show are the BMA Council and the Representatives, who come from all over the country – for example, Eastern Kent Division, Junior Members Forum, City and Hackney Division, and Northern Ireland Council.

The Representatives come to the ARM with an Agenda, which on this occasion contained 141 Motions, many of them with multiple parts. These and many other Motions had been submitted by the Divisions ahead of the ARM in April, when they were sifted through and filtered to come up with the ARM Agenda.

These Motions were then discussed, debated, and voted upon by the Representatives and the Council over five whole days in Bournemouth (not to be confused with the Enid Blyton book, Five Go Mad in Dorset).

Representatives were given the opportunity to speak for or against each Motion, and the Chair would call for a vote to cease discussion if things went on too long. The big issues were given plenty of air time nevertheless. The speakers were full of emotion, eloquence, and intellect.

If a Motion gets passed at the ARM, it is effectively BMA policy. All done and dusted on the day, with some fine tuning back at BMA HQ.

And the result is riveting. It is great theatre. Never boring. It is truly democracy in action.

The topics are not alien to us Down Under. There was lively discussion about the pressure on GPs, medical ethics, asylum seeker health, health funding, medical training, IMGs, governance, and a broad range of public health issues.

With the BMA representing its members as a trade union, there were many industrial issues discussed as well.

To complement the ARM, the dining hall was populated with information booths – but they were mostly internal BMA and BMJ stalls, plus member partners such as legal services.

The booths were interactive, with group workshops and presentations on things like career advice, overseas placements, legal advice, practice advice, and other information to satisfy the ever-inquisitive doctor and medical student.

There were also parallel sessions covering subjects such as mindfulness, bullying and harassment, doctors’ health, volunteering, the changing face of medicine and the role of the doctor, and governance changes.

Do not fear, there was also pomp and circumstance. There were elections, including the installation of the new BMA Chair and President.

Overall, the BMA ARM in Bournemouth was inspiring and informative. I did like to be beside the seaside.


Published: 14 Jul 2017