BMA Council September 2019 Report

Member Support Services

We received an extended extract of the Member Support Services Review, an external look at our employment services for members. The aim is to learn and improve a range of processes, covering member experiences, ‘complex cases’, communications, and other issues. The content of the report is absolutely confidential and the discussion at Council was held ‘in private’, which means we are not allowed to share any of it with you. We are also not allowed to report what was said in the meeting. We are assured that Council will continue to have oversight of the implementation of the recommendations.

We believe that the report has evidenced many concerns that we as representatives have been highlighting for many years. It has highlighted some solutions, some of which are quick wins and others which require strategic and long-term change. We are supportive of many of these and have expressed concerns about some others. We will argue that any working groups set up to implement the findings include representatives. We are also arguing for some changes not recommended in the report:

  • Insourcing First Point of Contact
  • Recreating the Place of Work Accredited Representative role (POWARs)
  • Better local and regional staffing in Member Relations (Employment Advisors and Industrial Relations Officers, the staff that help with individual and collective cases respectively)

We consider this work to be our core trade union function and want it to link with our push for rank and file trade unionism. To that end, Emma met with the new CEO Tom Grinyer on Friday to discuss moving to an organising model of trade unionism and how that fits with the recommendations made in this report.

Pensions

Our members’ age discrimination claims are waiting for the Employment Tribunals in the four nations to work through the processes. We expect that we will get some remedy for all our members affected by pension changes in 2015.

We are also continuing to lobby on the disgraceful situation for Less Than Full Time and Locum doctors, who pay pension contributions as if they were earning a full time salary, or a locum rate for 365 days a year. We are exploring the possibility of legal cases around sex and disability discrimination to progress this issue.

The pension tax disaster rages on, as more consultants drop sessions due to the annual allowance taper. This taxes money which doctors have not received and may never receive. It also in some cases results in a tax bill larger than the additional pay earned. The only way to solve this problem decisively is to #scrapthetaper. For doctors caught by the taper, the only solution is to drop sessions, Clinical Excellence Awards or other income sources to get back under the threshold taper. Doctors are now doing this in large numbers. Wait list clinics, leadership roles and education are particularly affected. Members can access the BMA-Goldstone Modeller to work out the best course of action for them.

We have argued for increased communication with members, particularly targeted at younger members, on all of these issues.

Banding

If you were a junior doctor on the 2002 Contract in the last 6 years, and you did a monitoring exercise that used Allocate or Zircadian, you may be able to get pay for the time and money your employer didn’t pay you for. This could be thousands of pounds.

We want to help BMA members take legal cases against their employers. Read more about our first legal victory and the eligibility here.

Surveying Members’ Views on Assisted Dying

At ARM, Motion passed:

That this meeting notes the recent decision by the Royal College of Physicians to adopt a neutral stance on assisted dying after surveying the views of its members and:

  1. supports patient autonomy and good quality end-of-life care for all patients;
  2. recognises that not all patient suffering can be alleviated; and
  3. calls on the BMA to carry out a poll of its members to ascertain their views on whether the BMA should adopt a neutral position with respect to a change in the law on assisted dying. 

We were asked if the question must be as worded in the motion:

“should the BMA adopt a neutral position with respect to a change in the law on assisted dying?”

We believed that without a proposed change to the law, this question is unclear in meaning. The debate at ARM, and the RCP example in the motion, made clear that the proposers and Representative Body wanted to determine whether members believe the BMA should be neutral on Physician Assisted Dying, rather than on any changes to the law. We believe that asking the question as written would not achieve the aims and spirit of the motion, and we heard from the proposer to that effect. However, this kind of interpretation of a motion should be approached carefully. Council should not be able to substantively change the course of a proposal mandated by the democratic conference of the BMA. We should be vigilant to this and the Chair of the Representative Body (who Chairs the ARM and is the advocate and guardian of the policy book) was correct to raise the issue.

The Medical Ethics Committee will now consider all options around polling members and bring detailed proposals for Council to consider at its November meeting.

Resignation and Council Vacancy

Our colleague Yannis has had to step down from Council and Junior Doctors Committee for personal reasons. He has been an incredible asset over many years and we hope to welcome him back to activity in the future.

In cases of vacancy, Council can choose to fill the seat with the next runner up as a non-voting member, or to run a new election. The vacancy is for a Junior Doctor Branch of Practice seat. There are, due to qualification of three Council members originally elected as medical students, now more junior doctors on Council than in July 2018. In this context, an additional non-voting member appears unnecessary, and the cost of a national postal election extravagant.

Junior doctors on Council automatically get a seat on Junior Doctors Committee, where they are now the largest constituency, bigger than any regional representation. This poses a problem for the functioning of JDC.

Due to the gender constraints applied to Council, which do not allow more than two thirds of any group to be from one gender, the next elected junior would be a man. The make up of Council is almost two thirds men already.

For these reasons we voted to not fill the vacated seat immediately. We will support new elections in future if more vacancies arise. We are in favour of more frequent elections to Council.

Brexit

The BMA launched a major Brexit briefing ‘A health service on the brink: the dangers of a ‘no deal’ Brexit’ on 2nd September to coincide with Parliament’s return. The report reinforced the BMA’s concerns about the consequences of a no deal Brexit for patients, the health workforce and our health services. The report also cast significant doubt on the Government’s claims that the NHS was ready for a no deal Brexit, identifying over 40 unanswered questions on the NHS’ preparedness for this scenario. 

The BMA has also produced a member-focused resource, ‘Information for doctors if there is a no deal Brexit’ which aims to answer the questions we may have in the event of a no deal. This resource will be kept updated as developments occur and additional issues arise.

In a really positive move, the BMA joined a joint statement with 11 other health unions to warn that a no deal Brexit could devastate the NHS. We want to see more of this cross-labour-movement thinking.

Refugees – Motion not reached by ARM

According to section 89 of the ARM Standing Orders ‘should the representative meeting be concluded without all the agenda having been considered, the sponsoring constituency can request a motion to be pursued, it shall be entitled to submit a written memorandum for the consideration of the council or appropriate committee, and/or to submit oral representations.’

We were asked to consider Motion 66 from ARM on refugees:

That this meeting is appalled by the humanitarian crisis unfolding on the Greek islands, and elsewhere on Europe’s external borders, and the devastating impact this is having on the health of displaced people. We call upon the BMA to lobby nationally and internationally for:

  1. the establishment of legal routes for those seeking asylum in Europe, including the UK; 
  2. the protection of the human rights, specifically the health-related human rights, of all displaced people; 
  3. the UK to fully recognise its obligations under the 1951 Refugee Convention; 
  4. the UK to take a leading role in developing a humane international response to forced migration. 

We voted to pass this motion, to enable the BMA to lobby the UK government to use its considerable influence to establish a humane approach to migration to Europe, including by establishing safe, legal routes for seeking asylum and alternatives to immigration detention, which is damaging to health; and lobby for adequate protections for asylum-seekers who do reach the UK. 

Other Issues

We were updated on several other issues in the Chair’s Report, including that:

  • We have a new Code of Conduct support line managed by an external, independent provider which is staffed by accredited counsellors. The phone number is 033 3212 3618 and is open to both those raising concerns and those who are subject to complaints, to provide support and guidance in dealing with the situation.
  • We are taking our lobbying on a Caring, Supportive, Collaborative NHS to the party conferences in preparation for an early election.
  • The BMA is contributing to the Infected Blood Inquiry, with one Council member volunteering to work through thousands of pages of documents so that we can assist in finding the truth for those affected by infected blood.

Spousal Expenses – Update

We have received an update from the BMA Board of Directors on the actions that have been taken on the matter of claims for spousal travel expenses. We share it in full below. The inquiry represents progress in resolving the governance issues highlighted by the discovery of the spousal expenses payments. We are also beginning to ask questions about the Lock Club, a dinner club for ex-Chief Officers of which we were initially not aware, and are supportive of other Council members asking legitimate questions.

Update

“An inquiry of the matter is underway.  It is being conducted by Jacques Cadranel, who is a non-executive member of the BMA Audit and Risk committee.  It is planned that the findings of the inquiry will be reported back to the Board of Directors by Friday 10 May, and (through the Board) to Council by Wednesday 15 May.

The inquiry will examine the historic expense payments made by the BMA to chief officers to fund the attendance of their spouses at oversees events at which the chief officers were representing the Association.  It’s scope will include a review of:

  • relevant BMA policies to establish whether any permit/permitted spousal travel claims and, if so, who developed and approved them.
  • current expenses policies to determine if spousal travel claims are permitted or whether any previous policies that permitted them have been superseded.
  • chief officer role profiles relating to spousal expenses, including an account of any inconsistencies between them.
  • expense claims to examine compliance with policies and contracts, both by claimants and those who processed and approved claims.
  • the role of “custom and practice” in the payment of these expenses.
  • the cost to the Association resulting from the payment of these expenses, including the potential tax (and any other) liability.
  • the role of internal and external auditors in identifying liabilities and, if failings are found, recommendation for ensuring they are not repeated.
  • the decision to pay the tax liability when it was recently identified and the process that was followed.

The findings of the enquiry will feed into a wider of review into BMA policies, practices and processes that is to begin shortly.

In addition, to the inquiry, we have already taken the following actions on the matter:

  • Ceased any claims for or payments of spousal expenses.
  • Procured specialist advice on the legal basis for repayment and the associations tax liability. 
  • Written to eight past chief officers to inform them of the concerns raised and publicity and to invite them to make full or partial repayments or equivalent donations to BMA Giving.
  • Ceased funding of the Lock Club, a dinner club for past Chief Officers.”

—Update ends—

BMA Council Report March 2019

Four Broad Left members attended Council on Wednesday 13th March. The agenda was dominated by discussion of our legal action on pensions and a confidential item about internal governance matters. If you have any specific questions, or issues we can help you with, please contact us.

The union has continued work on Brexit and Safe Staffing which you can engage with.

Pensions

We are supportive of the BMA action on pensions, in which we are supporting members bringing age discrimination claims in an employment tribunal in respect to the discriminatory impact of the 2015 NHS Pension Scheme. Judges and firefighters have taken successful legal action over similar schemes, and the government is seeking to appeal. Our case is likely to be ‘stayed’ (delayed) pending the result of that appeal, and it is possible that if the judges and firefighters win, the whole public sector will feel the benefit without the need for further legal action.

The result would be that all doctors would benefit from 5 years accruements from the previous pension scheme, and that a new non-discriminatory pensions agreement would have to be made. This could result in a further attack on pensions by the government and we are arguing that the union and Trade Disputes Preparedness Group should be prepared for that. The letter has been very well received by members, and could contribute towards an appetite for action over pensions in future.

We also discussed the lobbying that is being undertaken to redress the pension discrimination suffered by Less Than Full Time doctors, who suffer from current annualization arrangements. The Broad Left are supportive of this also.

Some members of Council expressed concern that legal action against the government might harm the relationships built during contract negotiations. The Broad Left believes that action by the trade union on pensions, and an engaged and supportive membership, strengthens the hand of negotiators.

Confidential Item

A large proportion of the meeting was taken in private and concerned governance issues. We advocated for members’ interests as best we could. We are not delighted with the outcome, but we are confident that the issues will be resolved going forward. We have asked the Board of Directors for further information where necessary, to ensure accountability where possible, and for further investigation with the aim of uncovering and tackling any other problems. The issues seem to be known amongst some of the national branch of practice activists without us telling them. We are sorry we cannot tell you more at this stage. We will consider what we can do to resolve this.

Member Support Services Review

The BMA is undertaking a wholesale review of our member support from First Point of Contact to the legal teams. We are supportive of the review – although our BMA Employment Advisers and other staff are brilliant, there is a discrepancy between the feedback we get from members and the feedback the BMA collects internally – and look forward to seeing the results. If you have received the survey, please fill it in!

International Medical Organisations

We have been asking questions about the cost, ethics and risks of our continued membership of the World and European Medical Associations. These have now been largely answered, and oversight of who attends which international meetings and the value of each has been tightened. We have supported continued membership of the World Medical Association (WMA) on an interim basis for 1 year, whilst we push for reform. The WMA is reportedly keen for us to stay. We have offered to host the WMA General Assembly in 2021 at large cost to the association, and although we think this was a poor decision, the legal, financial and reputational costs of withdrawing are too great. We have instead supported measures to make the event more relevant to members, with fringe events taking advantage of the many international delegates from doctors’ trade unions and professional associations around the world.

. These have now been largely answered, and oversight of who attends which international meetings and the value of each has been tightened. We have supported continued membership of the World Medical Association (WMA) on an interim basis for 1 year, whilst we push for reform. The WMA is reportedly keen for us to stay. We have offered to host the WMA General Assembly in 2021 at large cost to the association, and although we think this was a poor decision, the legal, financial and reputational costs of withdrawing are too great. We have instead supported measures to make the event more relevant to members, with fringe events taking advantage of the many international delegates from doctors’ trade unions and professional associations around the world.

Regional Elections

We argued for a change to the timetable of the Regional Council elections, which in the current form would practically exclude thousands of final year medical students and rotating junior doctors from standing, being elected, voting and engaging. The argument was won and JDC is arranging for a more appropriate timetable.

The issue was raised to us by Dr Becky Acres, a member of Organisation Committee and a junior doctor working in East Midlands. If you have issues we can help with please get in touch. We will raise them and fight for you.