MTAS row hits Westminster

The government’s Modernising Medical Careers agenda, following the MTAS march at the weekend, hit Westminster yesterday as health secretary Patricia Hewitt faced questioning from MPs led by Conservative health spokesman Andrew Lansley.

Ms Hewitt reiterated the government’s commitment to a computerised application process, and said the Department of Health would continue to work to ensure that trainee doctors were properly supported and fairly treated, and that the NHS is able to train and recruit the best doctors for the future.

“It is clear that there have been concerns about the selection process, and that the process as a whole has created a high degree of insecurity amongst applicants, and, indeed, more widely in the profession,

  • jamie wilson

    Inaccuracies in the Secretary of State for Health’s Statement to Parliament Monday 19th March 2007

    Amid increasing concern about the MTAS/MMC training crisis affecting junior doctors, the Right Honourable Secretary of State for Health was called to make a ministerial statement to parliament on Monday 19th March 2007.

    Her statement included numerous accuracies. This was an attempt by the Department of Health to gloss over the real concerns of the medical profession and the impact on patient care.

    The inaccuracies were as follows:

    Secretary of State for Health: “The new arrangements were developed with the help of the medical royal colleges, trainee doctors and others.”

    This is simply untrue. No body of junior doctors was sufficiently involved in this process. The BMA Junior Doctors committee consistently warned that the process was being rushed and implemented without adequate consultation.

    Secretary of State for Health: “The review is independent. It is being led by Professor Neil Douglas, vice-president of the Academy of Medical Royal Colleges and president of the Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh. Members of the review group include representatives of the royal colleges, the British Medical Association, the four United Kingdom health Departments and employers.”

    The review is not independent in the slightest. It includes Professor Alan Crockard, the MMC National Director and also Mr. Keith Smith the MMC National Programme Lead. Both these individuals were integral to the development of this process, have deeply vested interests and are answerable to the Secretary of State for Health.

    Secretary of State for Health: “A great deal of development work, quality assurance and so on went into the MTAS process and, more broadly, into modernising medical careers.”

    Again this is disingenuous. The only reference to validation has been a small study of GP job applications based on this method. This study was inadequately powered, had flawed methodology and is not transferable to the complex and heterogeneous career structure of postgraduate medicine.

    Secretary of State for Health: “ I have heard others suggest that some candidates’ applications were lost in the process—and I understand that that too is untrue.”

    At a meeting held by the School Executive of the North Central London School of Anaesthesia on 9/3/07 it clearly states: “90 applications were ‘lost’ from the original boxes, due either to a Deanery error or an MTAS ‘black-hole’.

    Secretary of State for Health: “The hon. Gentleman asked whether there would be 8,000 jobless doctors. There will be nothing of the kind. Of the 32,300 eligible applicants, the vast majority—over 29,000—are already working in the NHS, on foundation programmes, in other training places or in other medical posts in the NHS. Those doctors will continue to be needed, so the shroud-waving about unemployed doctors is absurd.”

    There are 18500 training posts allocated under the new system. All junior doctors currently working in the NHS have contracts expiring in August 2007. All doctors want to further themselves and provide a service to the best of their abilities. It is nonsensical and insulting to suggest that unemployment will not occur when a surplus of 13,800 individuals have no where to go except a trimmed down state run monopoly.