BMA legal head Waters quits to launch healthcare consultancy

British Medical Association (BMA) group legal director Jonathan Waters has resigned from the professional body to set up a healthcare, HR and legal consultancy.

Waters told The Lawyer that his move after 24 years working in-house (25 March 2013), which coincides with significant changes in the UK healthcare sector, was borne both out of a realisation that it was “now or never”.

“The healthcare market is opening up and I decided it was time to be my own boss and be more closely involved with clients,” said Waters. “The whole health landscape is changing hugely.”

The Health and Social Care Act 2012, which came into force in April this year, introduced an extensive reorganisation of the structure of the National Health Service and much greater competition in the sector.

Under the act, primary care trusts and strategic health authorities will be disbanded and clinical commissioning groups will bid for NHS contracts worth a total of around £60bn. The changes are expected to result in rapid consolidation among GP surgeries and new entrants from the corporate sector and generate significant new levels of corporate and commercial work for healthcare-focused lawyers.

The BMA recognised the increased commercial pressures in the sector when it established BMA Law, a discrete unit within the legal department, six years ago.

“Employment law advice is the core offering when a doctor joins the BMA but we set up BMA Law specifically to provide corporate and commercial advice at a discounted rate,” said Waters of the BMA’s three-lawyer team. “It exists to provide bespoke corporate and commercial advice and has really taken off.”

Waters said his new consultancy, which will launch at the beginning of 2014, would give him the chance to “be more closely involved with clients” and marry the “practical hands-on experience” learned in-house to a consultancy offering a lower-cost service than many rival law firms.

A successor for Waters, who is stepping down on 15 January, has not yet appointed but a BMA spokesperson said an announcement was likely over the next month.

“Jonathan leaves with our very best wishes,” the spokesperson added.