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Last Updated: Monday, 16 April 2007, 16:43 GMT 17:43 UK
Doctors' training review planned
Protesting doctors
The row has sparked protests
The government has announced there is to be a long-term review of the heavily criticised system used to appoint trainee doctors.

There has already been a review of this year's application and interview procedures.

Doctors had complained the best candidates missed out on interviews.

Now an independent review panel will consider what changes need to be made to the Modernising Medical Careers programme in time for next year.

The government's handling of training reforms has been appalling
Dr Jo Hilborne, chairman of the BMA Junior Doctors Committee

Most concerns this year centred on the online application process - Medical Training Application Service (MTAS) - that candidates had to use.

Doctors complained that it caused computers to crash, that non-medics were involved in short listing candidates and that there was no facility on the form to attach CVs.

The independent review panel has already recommended changes which will come in immediately.

But doctors say there will still be too few jobs for the number of trainees applying.

The British Medical Association currently estimates there are 34,250 doctors applying for just 18,500 UK training posts.

'Rushed in'

Health Secretary Patricia Hewitt - who has already apologised for the problems this year - said this latest review was intended to enable the NHS to "apply the lessons we have learned to a wider context".

She added: "Engagement from the profession is very important.

"There is a broad consensus on the essential principles of Modernising Medical Careers but this consensus must be translated into benefits that are tangible to the trainees themselves."

Modernising Medical Careers was introduced to speed up doctors' training - from 14 years to 11
Its online application process was criticised for failing to select the best candidates, with many not getting interviews
Doctors can now select a new first choice - and are guaranteed an interview
A new type of training post will be created for surgeons, due to excessive demand for places

But Dr Jo Hilborne, chairman of the BMA Junior Doctors Committee, said: "The government's handling of training reforms has been appalling.

"The BMA has been warning for years that Modernising Medical Careers was being rushed in too quickly, to the detriment of patient care.

"It's depressing that it's taken a disaster on this scale for them to listen."

She added: "We hope that doctors will be able to engage fully with this review, and welcome the fact that it is to be independent.

"However, we need more than this - we need urgent action now.

"We need solutions that ensure that no doctor in training loses out on a career as a result of government mistakes or poor workforce planning."

A spokeswoman for the grassroots organisation Remedy UK said it wanted to wait and see whether the new review group would be truly independent "rather than being composed of many of the original architects of MMC", and whether their recommendations would be listened to. She added: "Importantly, the announcement does not in any way address the immediate problem of thousands of experienced doctors, trained at great cost to the taxpayer, being forced out of the profession."

In a Commons debate on the issue, Liberal Democrat spokesman Norman Lamb said the "debacle" of MTAS could have been avoided with "proper piloting" and "consultation" with health professionals.

And independent MP Dr Richard Taylor said the grassroots feeling among senior consultants was that the national selection process had failed and MTAS should be scrapped.

Review into doctor recruitment
07 Mar 07 |  Health
Jobs protest planned by doctors
02 Mar 07 |  Health

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