Barely weeks into his new role as chair of BMA Council, Dr Mark Porter had to make what could be the defining decision of his tenure. Having succeeded Dr Hamish Meldrum in June, Dr Porter has to turn to his colleagues and somehow justify the decision to abandon industrial action over pensions.
To Dr Porter's credit, he didn't pretend it was the decision he would have preferred. But with a disappointing turnout for the day of action in June and no guarantee that the public would support any escalation of the action by doctors, he admitted the only way forward was to negotiate.
Most GPs understand that decision, although there are a few who have burned their BMA membership card in protest – but the test will be whether his more conciliatory approach will gain results.
Union talks are due to start on how the planned pensions contributions will be distributed among NHS workers, as well as a review into arrangements for doctors working until the age of 68. Dr Porter is going to face a hard slog against a Government that is unwilling to make any concessions this year.
He also has to somehow convince the Government to address the BMA's red lines on revalidation – although he admits the system is unlikely to be perfect before it starts going live at the end of this year.
Our panel said he had the skills to make this happen. One said of Dr Porter: ‘He is just the right person we need right now. He is a man with an incredible brain and intellect who will modernise the BMA. Hamish will be a difficult act to follow with his consensual leadership style, but Dr Mark Porter will sharpen up BMA operations.'
Consultant anaesthetist Dr Porter's first few months as chair of BMA Council have been tough to say the least, but colleagues have high hopes for their new leader.