Latifa Patel headshot, 12:5, 3:2

Your BMA: help form policy

By Latifa Patel

The ARM is about representing all of our members

This month will once again see the city of Belfast play host to the BMA annual representative meeting, with the ARM this year adopting a more compact format, which will see proceedings conducted across two days.

The ARM’s status as the high point of the association’s legislative calendar almost goes without saying, with our annual conference providing you with an opportunity to form BMA policy and help set our agenda for the year ahead. Furthermore, ARM is a chance for different sections of the medical workforce to come together, united in a common cause, and to recognise the rich diversity of our membership and profession.

I am proud to say that, in recent years, the BMA has taken a number of steps designed to improve inclusivity, accessibility, transparency and representation at ARM. From the format of the meeting to the way speakers are prioritised to the election process.

While some changes have made a positive difference to representation, as representative body chair I am mindful that those of us attending ARM cannot afford to become complacent about our responsibilities to our fellow members and colleagues.

It is incumbent on all of us attending ARM to consider if we are adequately reflecting the make up and needs of the association’s membership and, if not, what we could be doing differently to improve this. ARM, after all, is not just about those people sat in the auditorium or stood behind the podium, it’s about every single one of our 193,000 members, many of whom I hope will be following online. 

As well as the medical workforce in the UK, the outcomes of our conference are of interest and relevance to many of our international colleagues at bodies such as the World Medical Association, Commonwealth Medical Association and European Medical Associations – the ripple effect is vast.

One of the most important ways we can do this, both at conference and throughout the rest of the year, is by encouraging conversations between elected members and those they represent. If you’re attending ARM as a voting member, do you know the views of your peers? And if you’re not attending ARM – who is representing your voice? 

The need for good communication and dialogue cannot be emphasised enough, with both absolutely essential to any successful and productive policy forming conference. ARM is not intended as a rubbing-stamping formality, and robust and healthy debate and differences of opinion on contentious issues are welcome and encouraged throughout the course of the conference.

Our diverse membership means that there will always be people on either side of a debate, and being able to hear all points of view is crucial if our elected representative body is to make an informed vote. Sadly, there have been occasions at ARM where our conversations have crossed a line or strayed into areas which are not in keeping with our behaviour principles, and how members are expected to conduct themselves. 

The BMA has zero tolerance for bullying, harassment and discrimination, and activity deemed to be coercive or intimidatory has no place at ARM. As RB chair, I want to reassure you I will have no hesitation in challenging and calling out instances of unacceptable conduct and taking any steps necessary to put a stop to it.

Robust yet respectful debate is not simply about personal and professional courtesy, it is about creating a safe and tolerant environment at ARM, something which is ultimately integral to ensuring greater representation by empowering minority voices to speak out.

We have covered many difficult and contentious topics at ARM and we will always continue to do so. If we lose the ability to debate openly – we will cease to benefit from the diversity of our membership, and it’ll be to our detriment. If you would like to get in touch with the BMA and learn more about how you can get involved with your BMA, please write to me at or @DrLatifaPatel.


Dr Latifa Patel is chair of the BMA representative body