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Last Updated: Friday, 2 March 2007, 11:29 GMT
Jobs protest planned by doctors
By Caroline Parkinson
Health reporter, BBC News

Junior doctors
Junior doctors are furious about the situation

Doctors are set to take to the streets to protest about what they say is a "shambolic" system which could see at least 6,000 without training posts.

A grassroots movement is organising the march in London on March 17, and claims 1,000 doctors have already signed up.

They are angry about a new system which the British Medical Association says means over 28,000 UK doctors will be competing for 22,000 posts.

But a Downing Street spokesman defended the jobs system.

Medical employment, like any other employment, is competitive.
Department of Health spokeswoman

Prime Minister Tony Blair's official spokesman said: "The important thing is that there are more doctors than before and that is part of the investment that has gone into the health service.

"In terms of people getting jobs, there are the usual processes in place to ensure that happens but that's best done at an operational level."

Doctors' training was revamped in 2005, with the aim of speeding up progress so juniors could reach consultant level in an average of 11 years, rather than the current 14.

However doctors who have been through their initial stage of training under both the old and the new systems are all competing for a limited number of specialist training posts.

This is the point at which a doctor would select to focus on an area such as cancer medicine or paediatrics.

'Unfair selection'

But the group organising the march, Remedy UK, says early results from a survey of over 1,300 doctors suggest an overwhelming majority do not think the system is a fair way of selecting new doctors.

If doctors do not gain training posts, which would start in August, they would have the option of taking a staff-grade job - which does not involve any training - or going abroad.

A spokeswoman for Remedy UK said many doctors would choose to work in another country in order to get some form of training.

She added: "This situation is fundamentally important for patients to know about because they need doctors who are trained to look after them."

She said doctors accepted the need for a competitive job market, but feared the best doctors were missing out.

There are also concerns that the website set up under the Modernising Medical Careers system to co-ordinate job applications simply cannot cope.

Problems reported range from people being unable to upload application details to not being able to access the site to see if they have an interview - which started just two days after being announced via the site - and the potential staffing problems on wards caused by junior doctors heading off to interviews at the same time.

Doctors also report that some highly experienced colleagues had not been selected for interview, and that the way the system is organised means only a limited number of posts are available for doctors with the most experience, including those who have taken PhDs.

'Good for patients'

Jamie Wilson, a London-based psychiatry student - one of many who has contacted the BBC to raise concerns about the system - said: "The whole system is a shambles, and the applications process is chaotic."

A spokesman for the BMA said the reason for the problems boiled down to the new training system being rushed in.

"It's a huge task to get these tens of thousands of doctors into new jobs."

He added: "There is evidence that very competent and able doctors have had no interviews at all."

But a Department of Health spokeswoman said: "Medical employment, like any other employment, is competitive.

"The aim is to select the best candidates - that is good for patients and good for doctors too as it ensures high standards of care and commitment.

"There are thousands of training opportunities on offer to junior doctors this year but, as has always been the case, not everyone will get the job they want in the place they want."


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