Dr Hamish Meldrum, who is due to step down as chairman of the BMA at this year’s Annual Representatives' Meeting (ARM) in Bournemouth, Dorset, opened the conference today by telling the government that doctors ‘do not want to be in this position’ and ‘do not seek conflict’.
In his speech to the conference which is due to end on Thursday, the GP said the BMA wants to get back to the negotiating table together with all the other health unions.
He said: ‘We want to get back to negotiations along with all the health unions. We want to find a sensible and fair solution. We don’t want special treatment, but we do want fair treatment. And we want to get on with our job of caring for patients.’
He warned the conference that doctors must not lose the trust of the public. Dr Meldrum said: ‘Though we demonstrated a powerful and united voice on Thursday, while also delivering on our essential commitment to maintain patient safety, no one should be triumphalist, no one should be rushing to repeat it or escalate it.
‘Let’s always remember who we are fighting for and be absolutely clear that the fight is not with our patients, not with the public, not even with NHS employers.
‘Let’s also remember that whilst other unions are angry, other health workers feel betrayed and have expressed their support, most of them seem likely, albeit reluctantly, to accept the new arrangements.
‘I understand and share your anger but we must not let that anger prevent us from trying to find a sensible way out of this dispute.’
Reminding the conference that he will not be responsible for decisions later this week, he urged all parties to think ‘very, very carefully about the next steps’.
He added: ‘Because there has to be a solution, eventually, and the longer it takes, the more polarised both sides become, the more difficult it will be to reach that resolution and the damage we risk to our trusted relationship with out patients.’
He said it was a disgrace for the government to tear up a deal that was negotiated only four years ago.
- Follow senior news reporter Marina Soteriou's tweets from the conference @Marina_Soteriou