We believe there are three principles we should have when thinking about using BMA funds for representatives’ activities.
- Good stewardship of members’ money
- Complete transparency
- Representatives should not gain privilege or suffer disadvantage due to their work
The first principle is relatively easy to explain and to keep: booking trains in advance, booking hotels only when necessary, avoiding first class unless this is absolutely necessary or it is cheaper.
We should be open with our spending in line with principle 2, and contextualise this information with distance travelled, frequency and so on.
The third is more complicated, and unfortunately the BMA system is not best set up to cope with the issues it raises.
No representative should find themselves out of pocket when working for members. That means that those who forgo paid employment – in locum work, unpaid leave, or by going part-time – should probably receive some compensation for what they lose. Those in General Practice who have to pay for cover should have that cost met. However, in the BMA system of expenses and honoraria, it can be difficult to claim for just the losses you have taken.
Expenses are paid for items with receipts – meals and train tickets. Your losses from being unavailable for locums or taking unpaid leave from work normally do not come with handy receipts. Honoraria is meant to make up for that for those who spend large amounts of time doing BMA work.
Honoraria is a payment, a flat rate paid by the day if you attend 12 or more meetings in a year. You do not claim for what you have lost, if you meet the threshold you get the money. Students get the same as consultants. An hour-long meeting pays the same as a full day.
This clearly breaks the principles of privilege and disadvantage in both directions. For students, this could be a large supplemental income. For consultants, it might not compensate much at all. Equally, students are likely to be prevented from taking part-time work through BMA activity, causing financial difficulty, whereas consultants are likely to have a healthy income already.
On the Broad Left, those of us who consider that we are losing income through BMA activity document this, claim honoraria and take from that what they have lost. If we have not lost money, we refuse the honoraria.