Something big is happening.

Perhaps for the first time, the British Medical Association (BMA) has had to admit, on the record, its conflict of interest in a whistleblowing case. In other words, it acts against whistleblowers, while ostensibly supporting them. [My responses are here and here].

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Two faces

The BMA did not declare this conflict to me or my whistleblowing colleague, Mr Ahmed, at the time. It was wrung from the BMA, years later, by Court-ordered disclosure; and by cross-examination, where it confessed it had not been “open and candid”.

Forced finally to admit its conflict, the BMA now claims it had internal walls that prevented cross-contamination. This is false. It had the same personnel sharing legal information from one side to the other; and indeed had the same person act for Mr Ahmed, for me and for our opponents – even on the most sensitive of matters.

The BMA has yet to admit publicly how it subtracted emails mentioning “conflict” from email chains, during standard Court disclosure in my case. When caught, this conduct led to a wide-ranging specific disclosure Order against the BMA (27.08.15). It breached this and, to date, has only revealed a slice of the conflict in my case and Mr Ahmed’s.

But this is not a problem limited to two BME consultant surgeons. It’s systemic.

Junior doctors are vital “smoke detectors” when it comes to NHS safety. They see afresh what’s wrong and how it’s become normalised. We need them to be safe when speaking up. But in reality, their careers can be too easily derailed. Their survival lies not just in the hands of their hopsitals, but also with the senior BMA members at the training authority, Health Education England (HEE).

On 14.05.18, junior doctor, Chris Day, took minutes to secure a vital legal victory against HEE. He forced it to admit it’s an employer of all junior doctors, so it can no longer claim “immunity” from claims by junior Drs whose careers are damaged after whistleblowing.

Publicly, the BMA had insisted Dr Day’s case lacked merit; and that it would be too hard to show HEE was an employer of junior doctors. Privately, it looks like the BMA sat on crucial evidence that was to clinch Dr Day’s victory: the BMA knew all along HEE was an employer of junior doctors because it had been negotiating the terms of junior doctors’ employment with…HEE.

Here again, the BMA has not declared its conflicts of interest to its membership.

My view is that the BMA wants to avoid a mass of junior doctors reporting unsafe training, and empowered to take (lower cost) tribunal proceedings against its senior members at HEE; the BMA would prefer more control over the juniors, by diverting them into High Court actions, where the threat of costs can more readily coerce quiet settlements.

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