15 May, 07 | by BMJ
Health secretary Patricia Hewitt has announced plans to drop the flawed Medical Training Application Service — but only from now on.
Round 1 interview set up through MTAS and which have already taken place, or which are due to take place, will still be valid.
Ms Hewitt has announced that local deaneries will notify junior doctors of the outcome of the round 1 interviews, rather than trying to continue any further with MTAS, and that selection for round 2 will be done by local deaneries, not via MTAS.
In her written statement to the Commons today Ms Hewitt outlined her concerns at the security breaches that had occurred with the MTAS site and said these would be reported to the police.
“Given the continuing concerns of junior doctors about MTAS, the system will not be used for matching candidates to training posts, but will continue to be used for national monitoring,” she said.
She went on to explain that, subject to the outcome of the current Judicial Review, the first offers for hospital specialities in England would be made on or after 21 May 2007, with all initial offers made by early June.
Her announcement came the day before Remedy UK was due to launch a legal case against the Department of Health against the flawed application process.
Dr Andrew Rowland, vice chairman of the BMA Junior Doctors Committee, welcomed the Department’s decision:
“The Department of Health has at last seen sense and effectively abandoned the unfair, discredited, and shambolic MTAS system,” he said. “We are extremely concerned that the Health Secretary believes criminal offences may have been committed as a result of security breaches.”
The BMA opposes any suggestion that interviews that have already taken place should be written off.
“Some people have called for the system to be scrapped altogether and for the tens of thousands of interviews that have taken place to be written off,” said Dr Roland. “This would be disastrous for doctors, for patients, and for the NHS.”
But Remedy UK — which accepts it is too late to re-run the interviews — believes any appointments made as a result of these should only be on a temporary basis.
Ms Hewitt’s announcement today was old news, said Matt Jameson Evans of Remedy UK, which is bringing the legal action against the Department. “We knew round 2 was going to be done by local deaneries.”
The vast majority of posts would be filled on round 1, he said, which is where Remedy UK claims the Department has abused its power. He says the announcement will not affect Remedy UK’s case, which was due to be heard on Wednesday (16 May).
Ms Hewitt’s written statement follows:
In my oral statement on 1 May 2007 I notified the House that there had been two security breaches of the medical training application service (MTAS) that arose on 25th and 26th April.
MWR Infosecurity has now completed a full security review of the MTAS system. Action has been taken by the contractor (Methods) to address the weaknesses identified. Both MWR and CESG (Communications Electronic Security Group), the national technical authority for information assurance, have confirmed that appropriate and sufficiently comprehensive action has been taken. The site was therefore re-opened last week, restricted to postgraduate deaneries only, to support the next steps in the recruitment process.
Because the investigation has made it clear that criminal offences may have been committed, the MWR analysis and report have been given to the police.
Ongoing Recruitment process
Following the recommendations of the review group chaired by Professor Neil Douglas, every eligible applicant for postgraduate medical training has now been guaranteed at least one interview for their first preference post. An additional 15,500 interviews have therefore been arranged as part of Round 1 and are now taking place. I am extremely grateful to the consultants who have made themselves available for these additional interviews.
The review group met again on 9 May to consider the process of offering posts to candidates who are successful in their Round 1 applications. The group agreed that offers for the current round will be managed locally by individual deaneries, on the basis of published MMC guidance.
Offers will be made to successful candidates on a phased basis as
interviews for each specialty are completed. Subject to the outcome of the current Judicial Review, the first offers for hospital specialities in England will be made on or after 21 May 2007, with all initial offers made by early June. This process of making offers will continue until late June 2007, at which time Round 1 will close, ensuring that candidates and employers have time to prepare for appointments commencing on 1 August 2007.
Given the continuing concerns of junior doctors about MTAS, the system will not be used for matching candidates to training posts, but will continue to be used for national monitoring.
As we have stressed before, not all training posts will be filled in the
current round and there will therefore be further substantial opportunities
for those who are not successful initially. The review group has agreed
that this further recruitment will be locally planned and managed by the
deaneries. An announcement of the process will be made shortly.
Deaneries are continuing to work with the NHS and the Postgraduate Medical Education and Training Board to establish what additional training posts will be made available beyond the 23,000 training posts already available across the UK.