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Feature Interview

BMA’s Mark Porter: mastering the thorny issues

BMJ 2012; 345 doi: (Published 23 October 2012) Cite this as: BMJ 2012;345:e7058
  1. Nigel Hawkes, freelance journalist
  1. 1London, UK
  1. nigel.hawkes1{at}

In a frank interview, the new BMA leader holds forth to Nigel Hawkes on pensions, regional pay, and privatisation of the NHS

There are two prominent doctors in the United Kingdom called Mark Porter, but only one of them is chair of the BMA Council—the other is the Times’ general practitioner, who is forced periodically to point out that he isn’t who some readers think he is. But who, exactly, is the BMA’s Mark Porter? I visited him in his newly refurbished office with gleaming white furniture and acres of glass to try to find out.

He’s a 50 year old anaesthetist from Coventry with a long record of BMA service—chair of the Junior Doctors’ Committee 1997-98, a negotiator on the 2003 consultant contract, and chair of the Consultants’ Committee 2009-12. He took office at a tricky moment, just after the day of action over changes to doctors’ pensions had failed to prompt any response from the government beyond the dismissive, and with the Health and Social Care Act fresh on the statute book in spite of the BMA’s opposition.

Ahead, he says, lie issues likely to prove just as thorny, such as the moves towards regional pay bargaining being pioneered by 20 trusts in south west England. “They call it regional pay but that’s wrong,” he says. “It’s actually a way of packaging pay cuts. We’ll oppose it.”

Porter is a supporter of, though not exactly a cheerleader for, revalidation, which was finally given the go ahead last week. To have taken so long to reach this point is “ridiculous,” he says, recalling that discussions over revalidation began in 1998. “The only way to tell if the journey has been worthwhile is to look back in a few years and see if its application has been proportionate and that …

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