Message from the President – Discussions with BASEM

There appears to be some debate and concern about a document which has been written for the Council of the Faculty and the BASEM executive committee. This took the form of a joint position statement written by myself and Dr Roger Hawkes, President of BASEM, which expressed the personal opinion that there should be a review of the long-standing debate around whether our two organisations should join together. This joint position statement was sent to our respective councils saying it was our opinion that we should, and asked them to extend the debate to our wider membership. We hoped that we could come together as a College and ultimately apply for Royal status through the Privy Council.

The issue came about during one of our regular informal discussions which occurred at the beginning of the lockdown period. It was a very busy period with much uncertainty and emergency planning and it was clear that both organisations were drawing up guidance to support the national effort in the management and mitigation of Covid. There had to be considerable liaison in order to avoid conflicting messages coming from two organisations with very similar visions and missions. It was clearly an inefficient use of the precious time provided by our volunteers and risked undermining our national message. We felt that this time of national crisis should be one in which we reviewed our normal working practices.

The joint position statement was not a mandate for merger – it could not be. There are many constitutional processes to pass through before such a thing could occur and it would require full agreement from the Members and Fellows of both organisations. It was simply an expression of our wish for this to be debated with a wider audience in a structured and rational way. The period of lockdown seemed an ideal time to hold this debate – when many were less busy clinically.

The letter was released to the members of the BASEM executive committee and the Faculty council on the same day.

The joining together of our two organisations would require an extended period of consultation, debate and the development of a framework for the way ahead. It would require agreement at AGM’s and the acquiescence of the Royal College of Physicians of London and the Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh. For us to become a Royal College would require assent from the Privy Council. All of this would take a lot of time and a considerable amount of effort but we thought that the debate should be started.

Fundamentally, this is about how we best improve the health and well-being of the nation through Sport and Exercise Medicine – which surely must override the interests of any particular organisation. I believe we can make our voice heard as a bigger and more influential College.

I wish to make a few things clear:

  • The decision of whether BASEM wish to join with us is entirely a matter for their Executive Committee and Membership. The Faculty will not influence this decision in any way.
  • The Faculty intend to investigate the path towards becoming a Royal College with or without BASEM. However, this pathway is likely to be longer if we cannot demonstrate to the Privy Council that we have a united view as a specialty.
  • Any future College should be multi-disciplinary, embracing all elements of the delivery of this branch of care including, (but not exclusively) primary and secondary care and professional sport. 
  • This is not a matter of money. Both organisations are solvent and have more than sufficient funds to achieve their aims. In particular, the Faculty has enough money to pursue its aim of being a Royal College. There are ways to secure the funds of both organisations to the satisfaction of the Membership.
  • In all my dealings with Dr Hawkes he has acted with complete integrity, placing the interest of his Membership at the forefront of his discussions, whilst considering the potential national impact on the health and well-being of the nation of our specialty. I very much look forward to having the opportunity of discussing this issue with the BASEM executive in due course.

I hope this makes my position clear – I am very happy to discuss this with anyone individually or in a group meeting.

Dr John Etherington CBE FFSEM(UK) FRCP