Skip to main content

Code of Conduct

BFIRST Code of Conduct for Trustees and Volunteers

Executive Summary

The purpose of this document is to set out the standards, responsibilities and behaviour expected of individuals whilst in pursuit of the aims and  work of BFIRST.  To provide guidance for BFIRST trustees, volunteers and employees, regarding professional behaviour  while undertaking  BFIRST activities, whether that be communication with global partners or fellow volunteers, fundraising, or direct teaching and training. Procedures for reporting, and the algorithm for investigating and managing unprofessional behaviour are included.

All individuals covered by this document have a duty to behave in a responsible manner, with standards of conduct that support our common values, and to comply with this code at all times. This extends beyond the requirements of employment law and the professional guidelines of GMC. By partaking in BFIRST activities, in any of the above capacities, the individual implies that they will abide by this code and will be expected to sign up and comply with it.

The code should engender confidence that the organisation genuinely cares about developing and maintaining an appropriate work environment for all concerned, that is mutually supportive and consistent with achievement of the Foundation’s charitable aims.

Additional guidance is available for some of these specific activities and should be referred to in addition to this.    For example, the BFIRST standards of practice set out the ethical framework around which trips to our global partners should be planned and carried out and this code of conduct does not replace these.

Scope:  This code applies to all BFIRST employees, trustees, volunteers and global partners when involved in Foundation business. This does not address patient-doctor interactions or personal behaviour out with the remit of BFIRST work or activities.

Foundation business includes, but is not limited to, all meetings, written & verbal communications, social events, educational activities, website or social media activity and fundraising.

Lay members, course faculty and other individuals interacting with the foundation would be expected to behave in similar fashion although it is not practical to expect them to formally sign up, and, if not compliant, will asked to discontinue in their role for BFIRST.



September 2022



BFIRST is a Charity, subject to the jurisdiction of the Charity Commission of England and Wales. Our objectives are to train surgeons working in the poorest countries in the world to enable them to undertake reconstructive Plastic Surgery.

The BFIRST welcomes open debate and free exchange of ideas and is committed to creating a culture that is inclusive of all members and staff. We want all persons to feel able to contribute, knowing that their points of view will be valued and differences of opinion will be respected. We want to attract and retain individuals and staff who reflect and represent the wider society we serve and build a sustainable future for our society.

This code applies to all involved in the charity and employees who must conduct themselves so as to promote the success of the foundation and maintain the individual and collective reputation of BFIRST.  They must also, at all times, comply with relevant laws.

This code will ensure that there is parity between staff, trustees and volunteers, with each being held to an equitable standard of conduct. All individuals associated with BFIRST are bound by this code of conduct when conducting BFIRST      business. The code should be reviewed one year after adoption by the Trustees and then, as a document every five years.

Behaviour Principles

Volunteers and trustees should maintain the highest standards of behaviour in the performance of their duties by:

  • Performing their volunteer role to the best of their ability in a safe, efficient and competent way;
  • Following the charity’s policies and procedures as well as any instructions or directions reasonably given to them;
  • Acting honestly, responsibly and with integrity;
  • Treating others with fairness, equality, dignity and respect;
  • Meeting time and task commitments and providing sufficient notice when they will not be available so that alternative arrangements can be made;
  • Acting in a way that is in line with the purpose and values of the charity and that enhances the work of the charity;
  • Directing any questions regarding BFIRST’s policies, procedures, support or supervision to a member of the Committee;
  • Declaring any interests that may conflict with their role or the work of the charity (e.g. business interests or employment). If any doubt arises as to what constitutes a conflict of interest, volunteers may seek guidance from the Committee;
  • Keeping confidential matters confidential;
  • Exercising caution and care with any documents, material or devices, containing confidential information and at the end of their involvement with BFIRST returning any such documents, material in their possession;
  • Seeking authorisation before communicating externally on behalf of BFIRST;
  • Disclosing the fact that they have been charged with, or convicted of a criminal offence by prosecuting authorities (or given the benefit of the Probation of Offenders Act 1907 as amended) to a Trustee. For the avoidance of doubt, volunteers are not required to disclose the fact or details of ‘spent convictions’ under the Criminal Justice (Spent Convictions and Certain Disclosures) Act 2016 (as amended) to BFIRST unless their role brings them in to direct contact with vulnerable people, such as when making visits to global partners.

1. In seeking information from volunteers about criminal convictions (or the fact that they have been charged with an offence or given the benefit of the Probation of Offenders Act 1907 (as amended)) charities should comply with data protection law and be aware of the limitations on the circumstances in which it is possible to process such information (e.g. see section 55 of the Data Protection Act 2018). It is also important that charities have due

  • Raising concerns about possible wrongdoing witnessed by the volunteer in the course of the volunteer’s role with BFIRST with a Trustee, or, in the case of the activity of a subcommittee, with the Specific Trustee allocated as the liaison person for that subcommittee (see terms of reference for subcommittees).
Volunteers are NOT expected to:
  • Bring the charity into disrepute (including through the use of email, social media and other internet sites, engaging with media etc.);
  • Seek or accept any gifts, rewards, benefits or hospitality in the course of their role, unless for example the provision of accommodation has been agreed with a global partner as part of the arrangements for a visit to their institution;
  • Engage in any activity that may cause physical or mental harm or distress to another person (such as verbal abuse, physical abuse, assault, bullying, or discrimination or harassment on the grounds of gender, civil status, family status, sexual orientation, religion, age, disability, race or membership of the Traveller community);
  • Be affected by alcohol, drugs, or medication which will affect their abilities to carry out their duties and responsibilities while volunteering;
  • Provide a false or misleading statement, declaration, document, record or claim in respect of BFIRST, its volunteers, employees or charity trustees;
  • Engage in any activity that may damage property;
  • Take unauthorised possession of property that does not belong to them.
  • Engage in illegal activity while carrying out their role.
  • Improperly disclose, during or after their involvement with BFIRST ends, confidential information gained in the course of their role.
  • Charge for their services while engaged in BFIRST work.
  • Agree or undertake financial agreements, apply for grants, make plans for visits / collaborations with any partners HIC/LMIC without the Committee approval.

Where a trustee or volunteer is found to be in breach of the standards outlined in this Code of Conduct or any of BFIRST’s other policies and procedures this may result in the volunteer’s position being terminated.

Notwithstanding the foregoing, volunteers should note that BFIRST may terminate a volunteer’s position without cause.Volunteers acknowledge that no employment relationship is created in the context of their role with BFIRST.The committee of charity trustees will review the Code of Conduct for Volunteers at 3 yearly intervals or as appropriate. The Trustees are responsible for ensuring that this policy is implemented effectively. All other staff and volunteers, including charity trustees, are expected to facilitate this process.

Code of Conduct

1.Responsibilities of the BFIRST Trustees towards committee members, volunteers and staff

  • The BFIRST recognizes that it has a reciprocal duty of care towards committee members, volunteers and staff.
  • This code of conduct will not be applied inequitably, unreasonably or disproportionately.
  • The BFIRST will support committee members, volunteers and staff who challenge poor conduct and behaviours. Appropriate pastoral support should be available to all parties to a complaint.  


1.1 Communication with fellow Trustees, volunteers and paid staff

Everyone who is giving of their time and expertise to BFIRST is doing so as an act of generosity. All communication needs to recognize and respect the way in which volunteers need to balance their volunteer and work roles as they are often also in demanding jobs.

Volunteers and Trustees should communicate in accordance with these principles by:

Communicating respectfully and honestly at all times;

Allowing reasonable time (up to one week) for a response to be made to any communication between meetings. This will vary depending on the situation but where there is no immediate threat to the reputation or activity of the charity a week would be a reasonable time frame to allow.


 2. Responsibilities as a trustee and volunteer


2.1 Familiarisation

Individuals are required to familiarise themselves with the Constitution and Code of Conduct as set out in the Memorandum and Articles of Association.

Persons must act within the Memorandum and Articles of Association and promote the success of the Foundation  and exercise reasonable care, skill and diligence in all their  duties.

2.2 Attendance

Those who undertake work for the Foundation should be able to allocate sufficient time to enable them to discharge their responsibilities effectively, and should inform the Trustees in a timely fashion if circumstances, such as ill health, preclude this.

2.3 Election behaviour

The BFIRST can only function with the contributions of those individuals members who seek election as trustees, committee chairs, committee members and volunteers.  In order that elected representatives work together effectively, on standing for election, members agree to uphold the principles outlined in this Code of Conduct.

2.4 Conflicts of interest

A conflict of interest is the risk that an individual’s ability to apply judgement could be influenced by a secondary interest.

Committee Members must also declare any relevant conflict of interest before a debate or a decision is made. Where a potential conflict of interest exists, this may limit their participation in debate and/or decision-making.

2.5 Suspension and exclusion

When an elected trustee, committee chair or member becomes aware of allegations made against them that may result in disciplinary or regulatory action by third parties (including but not limited to, being excluded from employment or suspended from medical practice by the GMC), they should notify the

Chairman, who will be able to advise on the different ways the BFIRST may be able to support. You may also have a confidential conversation with Trustee(S) about whether it may impact on your BFIRST role.

2.6 Staff

All persons involved with the Foundation must respect and support staff and other team members who assist them in their work, in any interaction with staff, and should be aware of the contents of the BAPRAS ‘Staff Handbook’ and associated policies.

2.7 Overseas work

This Code of Conduct will apply to members engaged in work overseas representing BFIRST, despite the differences in environment. Members will be expected to conduct themselves as a positive example in both training and behaviour and to respect the beliefs, values and cultures of the country where they are working. Where this conflicts with UK law, it is appropriate to raise this issue with the team locally, decline to be involved if considered inappropriate, but not to impose the member’s views upon them.

3.  Responsibilities as a trustee, volunteer or employee

3.1Personal conduct

All persons are expected to maintain a high standard of personal conduct and treat all employees and others with respect. In particular, all are required to promote and model the behaviour principles outlined in this code of conduct. All Members should display the same duty of care towards one another as they should towards patients and in the workplace.

Bullying and harassment, including sexual harassment, will not be tolerated and cases will be taken extremely seriously.

Bullying includes behaviour that is intimidating, malicious, offensive, undermining or insulting. It is an abuse  or misuse of power and is unwarranted and unwelcome.

Harassment is against the law. In the Equality Act 2010, it is defined as conduct that is related to one of the protected characteristics (age, race, religion or belief, gender reassignment, disability, sex, or sexual orientation). It is unwanted by the recipient and it has the purpose or the effect of violating their dignity or creating a hostile, intimidating, offensive, degrading or humiliating environment for them.

Sexual harassment is separately defined in the Equality Act 2010 as unwanted conduct of a sexual nature which has the same purpose or effect.


3.2Boundaries between Professional and Personal Matters

Clear boundaries will always be maintained between professional and personal matters. Individuals also need to avoid putting themselves in a position where an abuse of power or breach of professional boundaries might occur, or could be perceived to occur.


Whilst consensual relationships are understood, nevertheless, a power gradient often exists between medical and non-medical Foundation personnel, as well as between senior and more junior individuals of the same professional background.  This is also relevant within the positions of the Charity, such as between the chairman, trustees etc.

 Such boundaries will be respected at all times, including at social functions. Relevant events include but are not limited to conferences, meetings, working away on business, events where one is the guest of a third party as a representative of the Foundation, office parties or Foundation related social occasions.


Appropriate and responsible behaviour is expected, including after drinking alcohol when on business.


Any unacceptable behaviour, intimidation or humiliation is generally that defined by the recipient, not by the intentions of the person behaving in this way.


3.3 Confidentiality

Information about, or held by BFIRST, that is not expressly put into the public domain, may only be given to others, if approved by Trustees, if they are entitled to receive it and must not be used except for the benefit of the Foundation.


Foundation participants should take all reasonable steps to seek and always follow the advice of the relevant chairs of sub-committees and Committee and their relevant communications leads before accepting, in a BFIRST capacity, meetings, interviews or requests for information from the media or members of UK parliaments or assemblies. For UK-wide issues, this will be the Chairman, or their appointed deputy.


3.4 Information technology & Social Media

Members must observe BFIRST Confidentiality, GDPR and GMC guidance for the use of email and other means of electronic communications

Everyone must observe the BFIRST Terms of reference for the Social media committee when undertaking work for the foundation.   The BFIRST is not responsible for any content not owned or published by the foundation.

3.5 BFIRST resources & property

All persons involved with BFIRST and staff must take good care of, and return on demitting office, any equipment that is made available to them. BFIRST is a Charity.  Everyone should ensure that they are making best use of funds by being mindful of expenses, travel costs and staff time, as well as making a contribution to the meetings that they attend.  All expenses should be approved by the Trustees.

3.6 Expenses

Guidance regarding expenses for travel, accommodation and incidental expenses must be followed. Claimants shall be considerate of the charitable status when incurring expenses. The decision of the Treasurer is final in any disputes regarding payments.

If partners or spouses accompany, then any additional travel hotel or catering costs are the responsibility of the individual and not BFIRST.

3.7 BFIRST Crest, Logos and reputation

The Foundation’s logos and letterheads cannot be used without the expressed permission.  These cannot be changed or added to, neither can new pictorial representation be distributed unless agreed by the Trustees.

4.Relationships with third parties

4.1 Persons may come into contact with a wide range of suppliers of goods and services including professional advisers and business consultants. Suppliers must be treated with courtesy and fairness at all times.
4.2 Persons are required to familiarise themselves with the requirements of the Bribery Act 2010 and the Society’s Bribery Policy.

4.3 Persons are required to disclose any acceptance of gifts or hospitality given by third parties in circumstances that could be seen as relevant to BFIRST business.

4.4 Any offers of third-party sponsorship and co-branding of activities and events must be referred to the Trustees.  These should disclose any financial advantage and be discussed by the Committee before being acted upon.

5. Reporting Inappropriate behaviours and how to raise a complaint about an individual or employee

5.1 Wherever possible, the BFIRST preference is to promote positive behaviours, and prevent issues from happening in the first place.

5.2 BFIRST recognises the importance of challenging poor behaviours.

5.3 Our preferred approach is to address poor behaviour informally through support, training and feedback. It is anticipated that most minor breaches of the Code will be resolvable through discussion and mediation between the relevant individuals, and that, such episodes will be resolved amicably.

5.4 Where staff or individuals have a concern about the conduct of an associate, and are unable or unwilling to deal with the matter informally, the BFIRST resolution process sets out how to raise a complaint and details the investigation, decision-making and appeals process together with potential sanctions.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                     

5.5 Individuals or staff complaints should not be raised in an open forum.

5.6 The resolution process also provides guidance on tackling poor behaviours informally as well as information about the support that is available to members who are the subject of, or are impacted by, complaints.

5.7 Concerns may be raised by the individual affected by the complaint or by staff or individuals who have witnessed poor behavior.

5.8 Concerns about staff or individuals should be raised directly with the relevant staff manager or in writing to the BFIRST Chairman, or, if the complainant feels this person is conflicted, or it is the Chairman, who is the problem, to any Trustee.

5.9 Any of the individuals mentioned in 5.8 who receives such a complaint must trigger the resolution process within 30 days.

Resolution Process

  • Minor breaches of this code will be resolved informally where possible by the Chairman or past Chairman.   This may involve an explanation of why the behaviour was unacceptable to the perpetrator and giving them an opportunity to provide an apology with support to prevent recurrence; more formal mediation; training for the perpetrator.
  • Mediation will be the preferred option where there is an established dispute with both the complainant and the individual being complained about being asked to attend sessions organised via exernal Human Resources. This may be triggered:
    • where a difference of opinion has developed into entrenched views
    • where the mental wellbeing of either individual is being affected
    • where behaviours or actions that cause actual or potential for reputational damage to BFIRST or, otherwise comprise its operational integrity are occurring.
  • Mediation may be requested by either party or a third party by writing to the Chairman or past Chairman, or, if they are felt to be conflicted, to any Trustee, who will consider the request and approach both parties to suggest non-judgmental mediation.
  • For those cases that are not successfully resolved by mediation, or which are felt by either party to be not suitable for mediation, then an investigative panel as outlined below would consider the matter.
  • Substantial breaches of this code will be considered by an investigative panel comprising the                              Chairman, past chairmen, two Trustees and a senior member of the Secretariat.
  • Where a member of the Secretariat or a Trustee are implicated, an HR representative will be contracted for the purpose.
  • Findings of the investigation will be brought to a closed confidential meeting of the investigative panel and sanctions determined.
  • The conclusion of the investigation will be made known to the complainant
  • Temporary suspension of role within or for BFIRST pending further investigation or outcome of formal professional proceedings may be required but only in serious circumstances. This should not be regarded as routine nor as a form of disciplinary action
  • Possible sanctions include:
    • Formal letter notifying individual of the breach and warning that a second breach will result in expulsion from the Foundation.
    • Loss of trusteeship, committee chair or committee member position
    • Loss of place on Committee
    • Loss of employment and other sanctions for staff (after appropriate Disciplinary procedure as laid out in Employees Handbook)
    • Referral to the GMC or relevant professional regulator

Whistleblowing Charter


To provide a policy to be used in conjunction with our Code of Conduct to give individuals and staff support in speaking out (whistle-blowing) and raising concerns about behaviours or policies within the work of BFIRST,  without fear of redress or sanction. We recognize that those individuals feel vulnerable and we wish to support them. To provide guidance for all BFIRST trustees, volunteers and employees, in  procedures for reporting concerns, and the algorithm for investigating them.


This policy applies to all BFIRST employees, trustees and volunteers when involved in Association business and lay members, course faculty and other individuals, such as exhibitors, interacting with the foundation. Foundation business includes but is not limited to, all meetings, written & verbal communications, social events, educational activities, website or social media activity.


We recognize that, at times, individual’s behaviour may differ from that expected by our Code of Conduct and we want individuals to be able to highlight this, without fear of reprisal or prejudice to their own position, so that it can be addressed early and by simple measures, rather than escalate to a more entrenched problem.

This Policy, together with the Code of Conduct, will ensure that there is a process to deal with whistle- blowing that encourages individual’s disclosure of concerns and early resolution of problems.

Concerns To Be Raised

Concerns may be about anything that an individual considers is harming our objectives as a Foundation.  That includes concerns of:

  • Bullying Harassment Discrimination Nepotism
  • Unsafe working practices Unsafe patient care Inappropriate behaviour
  • Risk of reputational damage to BFIRST
  • Risk of loss of operational integrity to BFIRST
  • Financial mismanagement

If an individual has a personal grievance concerning an individual then this is more appropriately managed through a mediation policy.

Protection for Those Raising Concerns

1. Responsibilities of the BFIRST
  • The BFIRST recognises that it has duty to investigate such concerns
  • The BFIRST recognizes that the complainant may be misinformed or mistaken and, if genuinely  concerned, no sanctions will be taken against the complainant.
  • The BFIRST will support the complainant during any investigation in a non-judgmental way and will advise avenues of pastoral support
  • The BFIRST will not tolerate harassment, victimization or bullying of any complainant by any   associated individual of the foundation or staff.
  • The BFIRST will subject any individual or employee who raises a concern, which they know to be   untrue, through malice, to disciplinary action.
  • The BFIRST will treat the identity of the complainant in confidentiality, unless required to  disclose it for legal means or with their permission
  • The BFIRST  will consider the complaint and, where necessary, investigate in a timely manner
  • The BFIRST will give the complainant feedback on the progress of the investigation
2. Individuals raising concerns

2.1 Any individual, employee, or external individual may raise concerns on their own behalf or if they   have seen evidence warranting disclosure relating to other individuals.

2.2 The BFIRST will protect the confidentiality of the individual complainant but will have not have jurisdiction over employers from external organisations in how they manage their employee.

2.3 The complainant will be kept informed about the investigation and its conclusions

2.4 If the matter, requires disclosure to the police or GMC, then confidentiality of the complainant may be required to be waived.

2.5 The complainant, and the individual complained about, may need to be suspended from BFIRST  duties during the investigation but this should not be considered a punitive action

3. Making a ‘protected disclosure – ’covered under the Law

More serious concerns may have legal consequences and need to be reported to an outside body. To be covered by whistleblowing law, a complainant when raising a concern (to be able to claim the protection that accompanies it) must reasonably believe two things:

  1. they are acting in the public interest (this needs to be more than a personal grievance)
  2. disclosure tends to show past, present or future wrongdoing that falls into one or more of the following categories:
    1.  criminal offence
    2. failure to comply with a legal obligation
    3. miscarriage of justice
    4. danger to the health or safety of any individual
    5. damage to the environment and/or
    6. covering up the wrongdoing in the above categories.
4. Responsibilities as an individual involved with BFIRST

4.1 Individuals are required to raise concerns if they see behaviours or policies that they believe may be injurious to individuals, staff or the Foundation.

4.2 Concerns must not be raised in an open forum but in confidence to the Chairman, or another Trustee.

4.3 Individuals may be called upon to give evidence in investigations and should attend in person or virtually to do so if required by the investigating team. Their evidence should be treated as confidential as should all details of the complainant and the investigation.

4.4 In investigations, the individual about whom a complaint has been made may attend with a fellow member, friend or representative for support.

Appendix 1

Shared with permission and thanks from: BMA Code of Conduct Document (May 2018) Examples of positive and poor behaviours These are verbatim comments from BMA members




Respect others

  • Everyone has the right to contribute and should be encouraged to do so
  • Every contribution is valued
  • Listen to one another – do not interrupt
  • Be open to others’ ideas and opinions
  • Try to see things from the point of view of others
  • Be prepared to change your mind
  • Ignore the input or value of others’ contributions
  • Alienate others
  • Interrupt one another
  • Not listen to one another
  • Refuse to consider alternative points of view
  • Undermine, humiliate or degrade others

Be professional

  • Remember you are a doctor with expected professional behaviours
  • Prepare for meetings – read papers
  • Flag controversial issues with the chair beforehand to allow for extra time or debate
  • Attend and actively participate in meetings
  • Mentor and support new members
  • Behave in a way unbefitting of a doctor
  • Persistent non-attendance at meetings without good reason
  • Attend meetings without reading papers
  • Do not participate fully across the agenda
  • Fail to support less experienced members

Be accountable

  • State your case with clarity and brevity
  • Explain your decisions and actions to your constituents
  • Debate in private but support democratic decisions in public
  • Maintain confidentiality
  • Challenge constructively – consider the time, place and impact on


  • Dominate conversations and restate the same arguments
  • Do not explain decisions and actions to constituents
  • Undermine democratic decisions in public
  • Breach confidentiality
  • Raise vexatious complaints

Be representative

  • Where possible, seek the views of those you represent on the issues that affect them
  • Where possible, share relevant information and feed back any outcomes which are not confidential to your constituents
  • Represent constituents’ views at meetings and when voting
  • Act in the best interests of members
  • Assume the views of others without asking or testing assumptions
  • Represent personal views in opposition to the views of constituents
  • Do not communicate relevant information to constituents
  • Do not explain to constituents why decisions were taken
  • Fail to disclose or manage conflicts of interest

Be kind

  • Be welcoming
  • Criticise ideas, not people
  • Recognise positive behaviours
  • Challenge disrespectful behaviours
  • Do not welcome others – form cliques and exclude others
  • Blame and mistrust others
  • Criticise people, rather than ideas
  • Do not praise positive behaviours
  • Do not challenge poor behaviours
  • Be aggressive and impatient

Some text of the BFIRST Code of Conduct has been re-produced from the published version of September 2020 of the British Society for Surgery of the Hand, adopted by British Association of Plastic, Reconstructive and Aesthetic Surgeons, AGM 2021. 

Adopted by BFIRST:  May 2022