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Wednesday, 15 April 2009

Report of visit to BMA Wales Council Meeting 11th March 2009

I thought it might be useful and interesting for members to read a visitor's account of the last Welsh Council meeting, held in March.

This was written by Clare Jenkins, Chair of Powys Division.

"I was pleased to be able to attend the recent meeting of Welsh Council. Gregynog Hall was an interesting choice of location for accessibility and I hope that this will not deter Welsh Council from repeating the experiment in other locations in Wales. However it was disappointing that there was not more interest shown by local members in the ‘visitor’ experiment. Perhaps it would have been helpful to contact local Divisional secretaries to ask them to raise awareness of the opportunity, rather than rely on members noticing a news article in BMA News about 2 weeks before the event. However, as in fact there were places for only 2 visitors, it can be understood that a flood of applicants was perhaps not being sought.

As a past member of Welsh Council I found a definite improvement and more businesslike approach to the meeting, which now lasts a whole day. This allows for a more thorough discussion of items, which were logically grouped on the Agenda. The chairing of the meeting was masterful – humorous but firm and it was good to see that the new responsibilities of membership of Welsh Council were being taken very seriously.

It was also very encouraging to receive approaches from members in regards to creating links with our division. Now that there are no longer divisional representatives on the new Welsh Council I had concern that Divisions would cease to have any relevance in Wales but this meeting has reassured me. There was a report from the Chairman of the Honorary Secretaries Group and I hope that in this way local concerns will continue to be aired at Welsh Council.

There was an interesting discussion on how best to engage the Council members in responding to the various consultations and documents that need to be discussed. Tying in with the new role of membership was the responsibility to have submitted one’s comments BEFORE the meeting so that these could be summarised in the meeting papers. No more reading the papers on the train and producing off the cuff comments at the meeting. This seems to be a very sensible decision, if the new Welsh Council is to really move ahead in its workings, as it will allow time at meetings for more in depth discussion of important items. However, the issue of electronic communications was brought up and it was clear that there was not equity of access to the internet for all members – some areas of Wales still do not have broadband access. This is a point the BMA as a whole needs to take on board when it considers 'electronic only' communication to members.

As a ‘reach out to the members’ exercise this trial is to be commended. The fact that there was poor uptake (although to allow only 2 members would in any case not have made much difference in the event) should not be taken as meaning that there is no interest in the experiment being repeated in other parts of Wales. After all even some members themselves did not make it to the meeting although others made valiant journeys. If there is serious commitment to making contact with ‘grass roots’ members this exercise should be repeated regularly even at the expense of inconveniencing members and secretariat. Once it becomes an established norm, awareness and interest may improve.

I hope that even if Welsh Council cannot face regular trips out into the hinterlands, the principle of allowing visitors will continue for ALL its meetings, wherever located. The dates and locations of all meetings should not only be on the (still desperate) internet but also circulated to all divisional secretaries for local publication to members. Agendas should be on the internet in good time. Perhaps if a lot of interest is shown in a particular meeting the barrier of 2 could be raised, demonstrating that Welsh Council really do want its proceedings to be open to all to scrutinise.

Thank you for allowing me to attend this interesting meeting."

So hopefully having read this, you now feel it would be beneficial to take advantage of the visitor scheme and attend the next Welsh Council which is on May 18th, in Cardiff. We have a number of external speakers attending this;

Dr Chris Jones, Chairman RCT LHB, who is currently working on a project for the Minister for Health and Social Services, called the Primary and Community Strategic Delivery Progamme. He will give a presentation on the new "vision" of Primary and Community Services.

Professor Mansel Aylward who will give a presentation on the work of the Bevan Commission

Dr Malcolm Lewis who will give a presentation on revalidation/relicensing

If you would like to attend please contact Sarah Ellmes,

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