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Feature 175 years of the BMA

A long way from Worcester

BMJ 2007; 335 doi: (Published 12 July 2007) Cite this as: BMJ 2007;335:72
  1. Peter Bartrip, associate fellow
  1. Centre for Socio-Legal Studies, University of Oxford
  1. peter.bartrip{at}

    As the BMA reaches its 175th anniversary, Peter Bartrip considers the journey so far

    The BMA has now been in existence for a century and three quarters. Such longevity is impressive. Rival bodies, including an earlier British Medical Association unrelated to Charles Hastings' creation, proved transient. The BMA of 2007 is, of course, a very different creature from its earlier incarnation, the Worcester based Provincial Medical and Surgical Association of 1832. Now, headquartered far from its place of origin and operating under a different name, it performs different functions in a much changed medical context. It has faced numerous challenges in the past, and its continued existence has not always been assured. It seems safe to assume, however, that it is well on its way to a bicentenary.


    The BMA, originally named the Provincial Medical and Surgical Association (PMSA), was established by some 50 medical men in the boardroom of Worcester Infirmary on 19 July 1832. Charles Hastings, “the best known physician in the Midlands,” was the driving force behind the new body and the dominant personality within it for over 30 years. The association was not set up to act as a professional ginger group or press the case for medical reform, then a topical issue under the influence of Thomas Wakley's Lancet. Neither was it created to advance a public health agenda. Its main purpose was to provide a “friendly and scientific” forum that would allow provincial practitioners to …

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