Re: Gaza-Israel conflict: Hundreds of medics are killed or arrested after intense attacks on healthcare facilities

Agreement: 
I Agree
Body: 

Dear editor,

The below letter was sent to Dr Qureshi and colleagues on 23 February 2024. We are happy for it to be published in full:

Dear colleagues,

Thank you for your letter and apologies for the delay owing to some developments over the last few weeks which we felt would be important to include in our response. We understand you have now, subsequently, asked several further questions which we will consider and respond to soon.

A summary of our interventions since the Hamas attack on 7 October 2023 can be found on the BMA website: https://www.bma.org.uk/what-we-do/working-internationally/our-internatio…

You have asked whether we have heard specifically from members subjected to employment issues in relation to this conflict. We encourage all members experiencing any employment issues to contact the BMA who will provide advice and support. We have made this clear in our statements on the issue, and we firmly support doctors’ and medical students’ freedom of expression, recognising that this is a qualified right. Since October, the BMA has been contacted by two members regarding employment issues relating to the conflict and they are being supported by BMA member support services.

The BMA seeks advice from the best legal counsel on issues of employment law. This is usually done when there are specific legal cases that we are supporting members with. Workplace discrimination and freedom of expression are both issues that the BMA deals with every day as a trade union and has not required specific advice from legal counsel on this issue to date.
Though BMA committee meeting minutes are confidential, we can confirm that both the BMA’s medical ethics and international committees have discussed the conflict, its impact on healthcare and human rights, and the impact on our members and both committees continue to monitor the situation.

The BMA is a member of the World Medical Association. Our fees to the WMA for 2023 were 219,300 euro per year. ARM policy states:

‘That this meeting fully endorses the BMA’s continued membership of the World Medical Association for the opportunity it provides to support and influence the development of global health policy. (2019)’

The BMA has written to the WMA asking the organisation to call for a ceasefire and we continue to discuss the humanitarian crisis with them. Following our communications with other national medical associations and the WMA on this issue, the WMA has now released a new statement calling for a humanitarian pause in the conflict, though we are of course disappointed that it does not go further.

The BMA has heard from many members and organisations since 7 October 2023 with a variety of perspectives. This includes the Jewish Medical Association, the British Islamic Medical Association, Médecins San Frontières, the Israeli Medical Association, and different groups of members. We will continue to meet with stakeholders in suitable fora, as we did recently with yourself and colleagues. In particularly we would like to thank Professor Nick Maynard, Dr Omar Abdel-Mannan, Mr Khaled Dawas, Dr Deborah Harrison and Dr Adam Smith, along with yourself, for meeting with the BMA Chief Officers and BMA staff on 26 January 2024.

In your letter you have asked whether a future meeting of UK Council will discuss this issue, and we will reflect on this as a potential topic when formulating future agendas. As you will know, we have condemned the taking of hostages, the deaths of tens of thousands of Palestinians, as well as over a thousand Israelis. We have condemned what may well constitute collective punishment and we have condemned attacks on healthcare facilities and healthcare workers. We have called for an immediate ceasefire as well as the release of all hostages and have publicly written to the Foreign Secretary to this effect.

The BMA’s procedures and past involvements in international humanitarian issues can be found on the human rights webpage of our website. We focus on violations of clinicians’ human rights, doctors’ involvement in human rights violations, and attacks on the right to health. We do this as this is where our expertise lies and where our voice adds weight. These procedures were drawn up with Amnesty International and the International Committee of the Red Cross. We do not generally comment on the wider political context of health-related human rights violations as this is not within the Association’s expertise and decisions on which conflicts to comment on could lead to accusations of bias and discrimination. Nevertheless, we support the right of individual doctors and medical students to express their views on a political dispute.

Once again, thank you for your letter. We would of course be happy to meet again to discuss any issues.

Kindest regards,

Professor Phil Banfield
Chair, BMA Council

Dr Emma Runswick
Deputy Chair, BMA Council

Dr Latifa Patel
Chair, BMA Representative Body

Dr Trevor Pickersgill
BMA Treasurer

Neeta Major
Co-CEO, BMA

Rachel Podolak
Co-CEO, BMA

No competing Interests: 
Yes
The following competing Interests: 
Electronic Publication Date: 
Tuesday, February 27, 2024 – 15:33
Workflow State: 
Released
Full Title: 

Re: Gaza-Israel conflict: Hundreds of medics are killed or arrested after intense attacks on healthcare facilities

Check this box if you would like your letter to appear anonymously:: 
Last Name: 
Banfield
First name and middle initial: 
Professor Phil
Address: 
BMA House, London WC1H 9JP
Occupation: 
Chair, BMA Council
Affiliation: 
Dr Emma Runswick, Deputy Chair, BMA Council; Dr Latifa Patel, Chair, BMA Representative Body; Dr Trevor Pickersgill, BMA Treasurer; Neeta Major, Co-CEO, BMA; Rachel Podolak, Co-CEO, BMA
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