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Last Updated: Saturday, 28 April 2007, 15:50 GMT 16:50 UK
PM 'must act' in medic jobs row
Protesting doctors
Doctors have protested about the application system
Tony Blair must step in to avert more chaos over an online job-application system for doctors, the British Medical Association has said.

It comes as junior doctors met in London to debate a motion of no confidence in the team running the Medical Training Application Service.

The MTAS was suspended amid concerns that the personal details of junior doctors could be accessed online.

The government says it is working hard to ensure the security of the system.

The system has failed spectacularly, and in so many ways that you almost lose count
Jo Hilborne, BMA junior doctors committee

Now, BMA chairman James Johnson has written to Tony Blair warning doctors' anger will grow if the government does not address the problems with MTAS "with the level of urgency they deserve".

He said the mistakes had the potential to damage patients' confidence in the proposed new database of individual health records.

The latest error to emerge is the experience of Surrey-born doctor, Hua Luk, who was told by MTAS that his application for specialist training had been withdrawn because he did not have the "correct immigration status".

'Terrible anxiety'

The London Deanery, which sent the message, has apologised for the error and assured him his application has been processed, but he is still worried because he has so far not had any interviews.

Health Secretary Patricia Hewitt has already apologised for the "terrible anxiety" caused to junior doctors over the scheme.

The conference carried a motion calling for Ms Hewitt and health minister Lord Hunt to resign.

The MTAS computer system has previously been criticised for not allowing candidates to set out their experience, meaning the best candidates have not been selected for interview.

But MTAS has also been attacked for having too few jobs for the number of candidates.

Under the new system, doctors should achieve consultant level in 11 years instead of 14
The online application process MTAS (Medical Training Application Service) has been heavily criticised
Doctors cited badly designed forms and poor selection methods and warned the best candidates would miss out on jobs
An independent review panel has already recommended a number of changes to MTAS

Conference delegates passed a motion calling for the National Audit Office to investigate how much public money had been spent on the computer system.

They also called for the system to be scrapped and not used again.

Delegates sought guarantees that no junior doctor would be unemployed as a result of system failures.

The BMA estimates that 34,250 doctors are chasing 18,500 UK posts, due to start in August.

But it has warned thousands of NHS doctors could go to work abroad because of their disgust at the process.

Lord Hunt said the Department of Health was "urgently investigating" the alleged security breaches of the MTAS but that its closure would have "minimal impact on the current round of recruitment".

Conference delegates suggested two possible solutions to the MTAS problems:

  • all eligible applicants be interviewed for all of their original choices throughout the UK, starting their posts in 2007

  • all MMC training be postponed and a return made to the old system (SHO/specialist registrars) for a year while a new application process is devised.

    A junior doctor on his fears for the future

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