Education And Debate

Is the BMA a 21st century organisation?

BMJ 2004; 329 doi: (Published 15 July 2004) Cite this as: BMJ 2004;329:161
  1. Nizam Mamode (, consultant surgeon1
  1. 1 Guy's Hospital, London SE1 9RT

    The BMA is out of touch with its members and in urgent need of reform, according to a former senior member. In an accompanying article the BMA's chairman of council argues that change is well under way


    I heard many complaints about the BMA during the eight years I was a senior member. Most of these complaints have been unjustified, and I have often suggested that although the BMA may need to change, it is best done from within. However, earlier this year I decided to criticise the BMA publicly. My criticisms can be considered in three categories:

    • The BMA does not spend members' money wisely

    • It does not represent members' interests adequately

    • It is institutionally racist.

    The BMA has emphatically denied all these claims.

    Members' money

    Until I made the fact public, probably fewer than 50 of the BMA's 125 000 members were aware that it recompenses senior members for loss of private practice while working for the association. The reason so few people knew this is that the committee which decides the payments does not publish its minutes; although the sums paid are published, the reasons for these awards are not. In 2003, the BMA spent £478 459 (€720 000, $870 000) compensating 25 council members,1 54% more than the amount paid out the previous year, but nobody officially knows what the money is paid for. This lack of transparency is unacceptable in a modern trade union, and clearly transparency is essential to prevent corruption. The amount that members can claim is not capped, although a cap is to be introduced eventually as part of an ongoing review by the compensation committee. Over the past three years, the highest single compensation payment was £55 670.

    Embedded Image

    The BMA in full flow: debating the establishment of the NHS in 1948

    Compensating …

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