A LATTER-day Doctor Finlay is to be the next secretary of the British

Medical Association, representing 92,000 UK doctors.

Dr Mac Armstrong, 47, runs the village general practice in Connel,

Argyll, with his wife Katie, and a third partner.

After a double life as family doctor and medico-politician, he was

appointed by the BMA Council yesterday to succeed Dr Ian Field in the

association's top full-time post in November.

He described the new job as a tremendous honour and an enormous

challenge. He intends to commute at weekends to his home in the

Highlands, where his wife will carry on the practice with partner Dr

Alison Davies.

''We have had 18 very happy years here, and Katie has too much to give

for her to give up now, and we want our patients to know they are still

going to be looked after,'' said Dr Armstrong, who sees improving women

doctors' career paths as a key issue for the BMA.

Dr Armstrong is chairman of the BMA's Scottish Council and deputy

chairman nationally of the GP body, the General Medical Services


One of his major challenges will be helping his members to cope with

the workload resulting from changes in the health service.

''Our members' needs are pretty constantly changing -- I see the

future as one of of increasing diversity,'' he said. ''There are going

to be so many more employers than there were in the past, for example --

health boards, trusts, hybrid health authorities, possibly private

companies running hospitals on behalf of the NHS.

''For the patients the thing is to emphasise that the NHS will

continue -- as we are assured by the Government it will -- to operate on

the basis of treatment free at the point of need and paid for from

general taxation.

''We owe it to our members to give them a high quality of service in a

world of increasing perplexity, anxiety, and heavy workload. The

emphasis will be on quality of education and lifestyle -- a well trained

and well-rested doctor is a better doctor.''

Ernest McAlpine Armstrong was educated at Hamilton Academy and won a

series of prizes in medicine, surgery and obstetrics at Glasgow


He has two sons aged 20 and 16 and lists sailing, opera and church

music among his leisure pursuits.