Latifa Patel headshot, 12:5, 3:2

Your BMA: opportunities

By Latifa Patel

Thank you for the support – now offer it to others

I wrote about the difficulties I had experienced in this leadership role, last month. I said it can be brutal and that in recent weeks I have found myself increasingly at the centre of disputes and on the receiving end of poor behaviour. 

I was elected to this role as someone who came from a number of under-represented minority groups in the BMA and across medical leadership. I was a woman, from an ethnic-minority background, and I was a junior doctor. Some of the topics I raised in last month’s column might be experiences many people in leadership roles have, but I also know people from my background experience them more greatly. 

It was heartwarming to receive a number of messages of support from members and elected representatives after the magazine landed on doorsteps. People reached out to ask me if I was OK, and whether there was anything they could do to help. I would like to say to everyone that I am OK and that I appreciate your care. But I would also like to say that, yes, there is lots every single one of us can do.

There are things every medical student, every doctor, and every health leader up and down the UK can do – and the most important of those is to give people like me an opportunity.

I was recently discussing these very issues with a woman in a leadership role in one of the BMA’s stakeholder organisations. We hit on the sad truth that we rarely pick women for the most senior leadership roles in the wide-ranging institutions which make up the landscape of health, care and the NHS. And when we do – as in my case – it’s taken us 200 years to do so and that’s just not good enough. 

We also hold them to a different standard and we treat them differently. What I’ve tried to do is show I can’t and I won’t lead like the men before me have. I will lead like a woman and a young parent. I may require flexibility and I may require support but, given the chance – I will deliver.

For people from under-represented groups, such as women, for example, it’s not through lack of trying, or lack of talent. It’s through lack of being given an opportunity. It wasn’t my achievement getting this role, it was a shared achievement of the 550 members of the representative body who saw me and collectively decided to give me that chance. Generally speaking, when you see women up against men for these sorts of roles it is the men who are elected. 

So, to all of you – when you see a woman, or someone from another under-represented group, in one of these situations, put them forward or put a cross in the box next to their names. Or, if you’re in a position where you know elections are happening, why not go up to a woman who might make a good leader and say ‘go on, have a go, I’ll support you and I’m sure other people will too’. 

As ever, I am always happy to hear from you and any questions you might have. To get in touch please write to me at or via my X handle @DrLatifaPatel


Dr Latifa Patel is chair of the BMA representative body