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Last Updated: Saturday, 5 January 2008, 16:18 GMT
Pain again for young doctor
By Nigel Pankhurst
BBC News

Junior doctors have been warned they face a tougher than ever task to secure a specialist training post in the NHS. The prospect comes on the back of last year's fiasco which saw a controversial recruitment system scrapped.

Dr Will Chellam
Dr Chellam is going through the process for a second year

For aspiring surgeon Will Chellam it is a severe case of deja vu.

Last year he was caught up in the controversy over the government's computerised Medical Training Application Service (MTAS).

Doctors accused the system of being unfair and unreliable, and it was eventually scrapped by the then Health Secretary Patricia Hewitt.

Now junior doctors have been told they face more misery, with their NHS employers saying there could be an average of three applicants going for every training post this year.

'Limbo situation'

Last year, Dr Chellam did secure a one-year training position in general surgery but believes the pressure of places forced him into the wrong posting. He feels he has lost a year because of it.

"For myself, it's a bit of a nightmare. I'm in a limbo situation after the mess of last year when I accepted a job but it didn't offer much training," he said.

"It's going to be hard again this year. It always was competitive but this time I don't see it's going to be easier or any more reliable to pick out the candidates.

Last year I was losing sleep... I think I was probably depressed by the end of the process
Dr Will Chellam

"Last year the computer system wasn't reliable or proven to get the best applicant for the job."

He added: "The problem is that the job is classified as a training post. However, it doesn't take into account the varied levels of training. I got the impression that the job I got was just to satisfy the number of applicants."

The 26-year-old doctor from Birkenhead faces further worry following the warning about the situation for 2008 from recruitment body NHS Employers.

"I'm massively concerned about it, to be honest. It's just total uncertainty again," he said.

"It's very stressful. There's not an awful lot you can do. You work long hours anyway, there's not really a lot of time to think about it. You just hope it all works out."

'Frankly terrified'

However, Dr Chellam believes that the current system will work out given time.

"The system that they've got this year will be the one that sticks. A lot of the mess has come from last year. It's unfortunate that people are caught in the middle of it, with uncertainty over what they're going to do," he said.

"I think it's the right system that they've got at the moment. It's just about clearing up the mess from last year."

That does not rule out another stressful year for Dr Chellam, who has already completed five years' medical school at Liverpool University and a two-year foundation programme at Royal Liverpool Hospital.

Now he is looking for a training position in neurosurgery and orthopaedic surgery.

He said: "Frankly, I'm terrified. Last year I was losing sleep. I think I was probably depressed by the end of the process.

"You just have to keep your head down and hope it works out."

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