Review group meets today

With a day to go until the marches in London and Glasgow, the review group set up to overhaul the MTAS process meets today. News on their progress may be announced later in the day, says the Department of Health.

The review group, headed by Professor Neil Douglas, Vice President of the Academy of Medical Royal Colleges and President of the Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh, has already recommended that the first round of applications should continue — although Remedy UK, organisers of the march, are calling for the process to be scrapped entirely.

The review is due to be completed by the end of March, so that any changes can be made in time for Round Two, which begins on 28 April 2007.

One of the founders of Remedy UK, Matt Jameson Evans, insists the march is not just about MTAS. “It’s about the whole process on Modernising Medical Careers,” he said. “We want MMC halted.”

Today’s meeting is unlikely to do that but it should look at what needs to be done to strengthen the interview process, so applicants can provide CVs and portfolios. The group will also be looking at changes to the application form and the scoring system for the second round.

Whether that goes far enough to appease the majority of the marchers remains to be seen.

The BMA has, with Remedy UK, taken out a full page advertisement in The Times today to publicise the event. And the BMA’s publications department has switched into banner manufacture mode, producing 1,800 placards with several campaigning messages, including ‘Jobs 4 Junior Doctors’.

Meanwhile many academics continue to add their voices to the growing protest. Yesterday The Guardian ran a letter from 38 clinicians and academics accusing those behind MTAS – and the Modernising Medical Careers programme of which it is part  – as having introduced the changes ‘by government diktat without involving those experienced in medical education and training’.

Professor John Bell, President of the Academy of Medical Sciences, and Professor Sir John Tooke, Chair of the Council of Heads of Medical Schools, have added their voices to those of other academics, stating that the new system of application to specialist medical training ‘has paid scant regard to the determinants of academic potential’. 

And the President of the Royal Society of Medicine, Baroness Ilora Finlay, has described the Modernising Medical Careers application process for junior doctors as ‘flawed and chaotic’.
“Thousands of excellent junior doctors fear seeing their dreams in tatters despite years of hard work,” said Baroness Finlay.

She went on to warn that whatever happens, there are no guarantees for those seeking jobs:
“The greatest tragedy of all is that medical unemployment is with us and whatever the appointment system, there are not enough jobs in the long term. Even those that get trained have no assurance of a consultant post at the end of it all.” 
The review, she said, must report “fully and openly”. The full editorial will appear in April’s issue of the Society’s Journal.