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The British Medical Association is the largest trade union of doctors working in the United Kingdom. It has representatives from all branches of medicine all over the UK. About 80% of practising doctors are members, as are 12,000 medical students and nearly 4,000 members overseas. It was founded by Sir Charles Hastings in 1832

It is a registered limited company, funded mainly by its members and acts as a political voice, as well as publishing advice and guidance for the medical profession. Among its publications is the British Medical Journal, a weekly publication of scientific papers, editorials, articles, letters and digest of recent, relevent events. This is available online at http://www.bmj.com and is freely available to all.

The BMJ Careers is a companion publication (and website) to the BMJ which gives details of all the employment opportunities in the country, as well as providing email notification of published jobs as they become available, making it a very useful resource to young doctors, many of whom are working in six month posts.

Other services provided intend to provide a central access to many of the financial requirements of the BMA members, including advice and provision of mortgages, pensions, life assurance, savings and investments. It aims to offer these at competitive rates, and although better deals can be found elsewhere, the savings in time provided by such an approach encourage many UK doctors to take advantage of their services. It does not provide insurance for medical palpractice.

Some of the more important achievements of the association include the setting up of the General Medical Council in the middle of the nineteenth century, which is still responsible for the registration and ultimate discipline of Doctors in the UK today. It was also the first such organisation to insist on the mandatory reporting of certain diseases to a central agency, again a practice that not only continues today but is in place all around the world, with compulsary notification of new cases of Malaria, SARS and the like. And when the National Health Service (NHS) was set up in Britain, the BMA became the single professional representative body.

It continues to battle politically, both in the UK and Europe, with the most contentious issue of the moment being the European Working Time Directive, which will soon limit all junior doctors (from August) to a maximum working week of 56 hours, and the shortened consultant training period of five years (down from seven). There are grave concerns that the combination of these two events will decimate the amount of experience and training that doctors will receive before becoming consultants, denying patients the compentency of care that they require.

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