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BMA cancels face-to-face meetings to release doctors for coronavirus effort

patient safety watchdog

The BMA has cancelled all face-to-face meetings involving 20 people or more in light of the coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic, to allow doctors to help on the frontline. 

Virtual meetings and conferences will be held ‘where possible’ instead, the BMA said. 

The body took the decision following a BMA council meeting on Wednesday, confirming the measures will be in place for a six-week period, from 16 March.

In a statement, the BMA said the decision was ‘not taken lightly’ but is ‘necessary’ to ensure staff safety.

It said: ‘Following yesterday’s BMA council meeting, the BMA has today (12 March) announced that from Monday, 16 March all face-to-face BMA meetings and conferences of approximately 20 members or more will be rearranged as virtual (or part-virtual) meetings where possible or cancelled for a period of six weeks initially (and potentially until the annual representative meeting) as the NHS works to contain the spread of Covid-19.

‘Importantly this means that our members can be where they need and want to be on the frontline supporting their colleagues and patients (and prioritising what spare time they have to rest or spend as they wish) as the spread of the virus continues to escalate.’

It added: ‘This is not a decision that has been taken lightly and comes following extensive discussion at BMA council yesterday. While disappointing, it is a necessary step to ensuring the safety of our staff and members through supporting efforts to control the spread of the virus.’

The BMA said its annual representative meeting, due to be held in June, will still take place but might be shortened or postponed if needed. 

The statement added: ‘We want to reassure our members that the core business of the BMA will continue, looking after our members. During this period the BMA will seek to make maximum use of its digital resources and facilities. We will support committees – and potentially ARM representatives – to continue their work on behalf of members through virtual meetings wherever possible.’

The BMA’s decision to postpone meetings comes as Prime Minister Boris Johnson said there is no need to ban mass gatherings at this stage. 

However, he recommended yesterday that anyone with a fever or a new cough should self-isolate for seven days to slow down the spread of Covid-19.

Earlier this week, health secretary Matt Hancock said all primary care consultations should be carried out remotely unless there are clinical or practical reasons not to do so.

Pulse previously reported that a number of GP practices across the country had already swapped to telephone-first models in a bid to protect their staff and patients from the virus.