BSRM name debate

The British Society of Rehabilitation Medicine, which was originally named the Medical Disability Society when first founded in 1984, is debating whether to change its name to the British Society of Physical and Rehabilitation Medicine. Disquiet with its current name emerged in about 2010-2011, when some members felt the proposed new name would be more appropriate. A proposal for expansion of the speciality in 2016 included a proposal to change the name; the Rehabilitation Medicine Expansion Proposal (RMEP), available here. Eventually, there was sufficient disquiet to lead to a decision at a meeting of the Executive Committee in September 2020 that there should be a debate within the Society, culminating in a ballot on the proposal in December 2021. Normally a decision of this nature would be debated at an Annual General Meeting but, unfortunately, both the 2020 and 2021 Annual General Meetings have been online, for obvious reasons. Therefore a written document has been circulated to all members and it puts forwards the arguments in favour of each name. (It is available here.) Nonetheless, the opportunity for members to meet and discuss this issue is limited. I have decided to use this Rehabilitation Matters website as a forum for anyone to read and comment on the issues – anyone including people who are not members of the Society. A list of all relevant documents and web pages is at the end, with links, to make finding information easier.

This forum for discussion

A website is not an ideal venue to debate issues, but it is one venue to complement discussions held in local meetings. This page is an integral part of the Rehabilitation Matters website, but the debate will occur in the two associated blog post pages whose links are given later. I hope that this will allow everyone greater access to a larger range of ideas and opinions, provided that readers use the comments after the posts. If sufficient comments are submitted, I will summarise comments and add new posts with the content categorised and summarised; if possible I will ask a second BSRM member to check that my summary is fair and unbiased. New posts will be publicised on Twitter (@rehabili11484543, @derickwaderehab, @BSRehabMed).

To foster and inform the debate, I have provided a copy of the official document. It is probable that most members (like me) will have left the document attached to the email sent on 4th August to all members, or may have lost it. It is available here. It can be accessed by anyone else interested in the debate.

To ensure that all views are represented, I am hosting two separate blog posts, one for change and one for continuing with the current name. The proponents of each choice may set out, in as much detail as they wish, any arguments (new or already made) and any clarification or further expansion of their position on the appropriate post.

One blog post, in favour of retaining the name, The British Society of Rehabilitation Medicine is written by me, but (I hope) comments (in favour or disagreeing) will be made, and others who wish to write in favour may do so, and their posts will be published on separate pages.If you wish to write a post supporting the continuation of the present name, please contact me.

I have offered three leading proponents of changing the name toBritish Society of Physical and Rehabilitation Medicine the opportunity to write a post explaining and promoting their proposal, but all have declined. I would welcome any other person to write a post that will be published. If more than one person offers, two or more posts can be published. In the meanwhile, I have summarised the argument, I hope fairly, in a post. If you wish to write a post supporting the change of name, please contact me.

Any reader can make a comment under the posts, supporting or disagreeing with the published proposal and any comments already appended. All comments will be published, unless they break the law, or are gratuitously disrespectful or inflammatory.

Last, the perception of our Society by others is a matter of concern to both sides of the debate. One side argues that the proposed name will attract more members and increase influence, while the counterargument is that the change risks not only putting off people who might join, especially anyone who is not a doctor, but also risks the loss of ‘brand recognition’. Consequently, comments by people who are not Society members will also be very welcome.

Why the Society should change its name.

At present (September 30th 2021) this (first) post on why the name should be changed is a copy of the summary given in the main document circulated to members (here). I hope that someone will come forward soon, and provide a new post to ensure an equal and fair debate. The post can be accessed here.

Why the Society should retain its present name.

The (first) post supporting retention of the present name is written by Derick Wade, a consultant in Rehabilitation Medicine and a professor in Neurological Rehabilitation at the University of Oxford. The post can be accessed here; comments can be made at the end of the post.

Derick Wade was a founder member of the Medical Disability Society in 1984, and became a consultant in rehabilitation in 1986. He has had a long-standing interest in all aspects of rehabilitation since 1980, and has written and spoken widely about rehabilitation.

BSRM name debate documents.

There are many documents, including web pages, that are or might be relevant. I will list all those I can think of here, and if anyone has further suggestions they should contact me (see bottom of page).

  • Rehabilitation Medicine Expansion Proposal (RMEP); 2016; here
  • Information sent to all BSRM members; both points of view; 2021; here
  • Blog post in favour of name change; here
  • Blog post in favour of retaining name; here
  • Paper on the word, ‘Physical’; 2006; here
  • BSRM website home page; here
  • ISPRM (International Society of Physical and Rehabilitation Medicine) website; here
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