MTAS ’scrapped’ – but round 1 interviews remain

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.

  • Jamie Fanning

    When will the powers that be stop messing about with our lives, pick a system, stick with it, and let us plan for our future?

  • Hussein Khambalia

    I welcome this news, although it comes as no surprise, but I am concerned about the way we will be told which posts we have got. As the deaneries will now offer us the posts and it will not be done through MTAS is it possible that we will be offered more than 1 post, and if so, how long can we wait before we decide on which post we will accept. Can anyone clarify this?

  • Dr Jenny Townsend

    At last they’ve seen sense! But what a waste of everybodys time and money.

  • sharma,mohan

    this was to happen, its typical character to create a mess and then find a way out of it to do what you were originally doing and that let the world know that we have atleast found 100 reasons why the system didnt worked and why this is not to be used in future
    thanks for no thanks

  • duncan

    This website is a smoke screen to the crux of the problem.

    THE WEBSITE MAY BE DOWN BUT THIS DOES NOT ADDRESS ALL OUR PROBLEMS…… in fact it only addresses the security issue

    WE ARE STILL USING THE UNFAIR PROCESS…the information which was entered into the computer system is still being used to select juniors into posts.

    What assurances are being sort by the BMA that he information from our “exam papers “ are being accurately passed over to the deaneries? Given that Scotland,had to ask who needed interviews, and then used a computer programme to highlight non english sounding names, subsequently excluding british born individuals, from opportunities.

    The website hasn’t worked for weeks and the bias selection programme is still being implemented by the deaneries!!!

  • I supported the MTAS because for the first time I got to experience equal opportunity first hand. The computerized system was free of any discrimination and prejudice but may be flawed in some criteria which made some working class British citizens not to be shortlisted. I felt it should have simply been reviewed but its a shame its being scrapped.
    I feel it was a victim of politics and we have to be pulled back to an archaic system where human factors come into play.
    I am a British Citizen but a foreign graduate and was shortlisted for 2 interviews(thanks to the computers) by MTAS compared to having been shortlisted for only one job interview in the past 2years despite loads of applications which I met the person specifications.
    I wonder what the results would represent now that discrimination and prejudice can play a role in selection of doctors. However, I was glad some doctors got to experience what it felt like not being given a chance despite meeting all the requirements set out; it happens every day but usually to a minority not considered by the society.

  • matthew

    Now that MTAS has been abandoned does this mean that the GP selection process is to be reviewed and jobs given on the basis of performance at the selection centres and interview rather than on how high you ranked GP? (GP jobs were only given to those that ranked it 1st and not, as was intended, on the performance!!!)

  • Melonie K. Sriranganathan

    With MTAS scrapped, for the select few that actually get into a training post, is that post only for one year, and will we face this shambles again next year?

  • Prabhakaran Naveen

    I just wonder what happens to staff grades on work permit visas, who have applied for ST4 posts under the MTAS?

    I had an email in April saying I am not eligible and i have to withdraw my application because of my immigration status.

    I tried contacting MTAS but where are they and these so called deaneries? discrimination and politics in a blender I suppose

  • aditya

    I never imagined that the british system would do the same to the doctors serving the NHS, as it has done to the entire world- A handful of beaurocrats messing with the whole system and lives of other people, for what- probably just to leave a shameful legacy. They dont even have faith in their own system which has run for ages and produced excellent doctors. What a shame.

  • Rebecca Daniel

    Despite the governments best efforst to save face by hiding behind the disintegration of the MTAS inteviews that were held and are still being held based on decsions made using this flawed system are being considered to appoint candidates . I have watched in horror as the events unfold !! I faii to understand why GP results were relased based on prefernces and NOT on who the most qualified candidate was . Prefernces will not be used in the rest of the round for otehr specialities according to the latest information . The unfairness of the whole system is an outrage and meanwhile the NHS will inevitably loose it best and brightest, There can be no doubt of this.Additionally the blatant discrimination both racial and otherwise that has been promoted is frighteing . Dare we believe the stories of how “non british sounding names ” were used as judging unsuitability for jobs ?

  • David Markham

    Help me please. I am so distressed over this whole shambles. I initially ranked GP as my second choice but aftyer all the messing around and what I thought was a suuccesful interview I changed it to my first choice in May. I believed that this would then give me an increased chance of getting a job in an area I was always satisfied to work in even though it was not initially my first choice.I was then told I would not be offered a position even though I met the standards but I am on the standby list. I now read that the second round will not be completed until November. I am almost certain I feel to be out of work for a few months now as I dont rate my chances of getting through on standby. I have been told I meet the standard, my assements are completed (at an above required standard I may add), my audits are done, my referances excellent, my ability adequate, my motivation sky high, my debts even higher and my prospects, well what happened to them. You have taken a enthusiastic, motivated and capable junior doctor and transformed him into an anxious, and depressed trainee who currently spends a few hours a week looking for potential jobs in the local newspaper.

  • P Gupta

    The government have no idea what mess they have created in the medical field. They are messing with people’s life. I am so afraid for the families of all doctors affected by the system just because someone with this big idea created this mess yet no one is coming up with some good solutions. What will happen to all the doctors who won’t secure a post at ST3/ST4? After all, it hasn’t been easy getting to that stage, does the government expect ST3/ST4 doctors to just simply given up the medical profession they worked so hard for and find something else to do? What are they going to while the government tries to get more post created?