Thousands march in MTAS protest

Police estimate at least 10,000 protestors joined the MTAS march in London today — far more than they or the organisers had expected. And a further 500 supported the march in Glasgow.

At one point the numbers in London swelled so much that police had to control the crowds by letting them spill off the streets into a park, said a spokesperson from the Metropolitan Police.

The 2-hour march through central London ended with a number of speakers, including Conservative party leader David Cameron, who — according to reports by the Press Association — told the crowd that the training system was a ‘shambles’.

He said the Conservatives would treat doctors ‘like human beings’ and that he would call the government to account for its modernising medical careers policy.

“The government have said they are holding a review,” he said. “It’s got to be a proper review, not a paper exercise, and if they can’t get it right they’ve got to scrap it.”

Remedy UK organiser Matt Jameson-Evans also addressed the crowds which spilled across the square at Lincoln’s Inn. Banners waved in the sunshine – among them ‘Murdering Medical Careers,’ ‘Modern Medical Crisis’, ‘My training your healthcare’ and — perhaps the most amusing —‘Hewitt Blue It’. Cheers and raised hands greeted Matt’s speech that this was ‘not the end, but just the beginning.’

Not all of them were junior doctors. Some nurses had turned out to add their support and more mature protestors (including some sporting Daily Telegraph t-shirts in support of the march) included medics and the parents of those affected.

Peter Hunter, a former consultant at the Royal Shrewsbury Hospital, wanted to add his voice to the protest.

“The crisis in junior doctors’ training is the most serious since the start of the NHS in 1948,” he said. “It is a complete and total farce. There have been some very good candidates and they haven’t even had an interview.”

He criticised the amount of central control the government was trying to place on the application process:

‘The Soviet Union broke up because they tried to run the country from the centre — it is physically impossible,” he said.

Sam Bennett, in his fifth year of training at Kings College Hospital London, was there to protest at the problems with MTAS. He’s not had an interview after the first round. “It has really surprised me,” he said. “I’ve had decent jobs so far, and ticked most of the boxes.”

He turned up because he ‘wanted to do something’ and was hoping the second round would allow him to attach his cv and other supporting evidence.

Jo Maynard, from St Thomas’ Hospital, was one of the luckier ones. She’s got an interview for a paediatrics post somewhere in the London region.

“But the process was disastrous,” she said. “The questions they asked in the application process were just general, not even based on the specialty you’d chosen.”

She was there to support colleagues less fortunate than herself. “You get your degree, do what you’re meant to do, then they bring a computer that just says no to you.”

Judy King, one of the organisers from Remedy UK, said she’d been delighted at how well the march had gone. “It certainly shows there’s a lot of grass roots opposition to this system. David Cameron was great — and said all the things we wanted him to say.”

But she said despite the hard work being put into reviewing MTAS, the announcement made last night of how the system might be improved for round 2 applications still didn’t go far enough.

“If you accept the system is flawed you need to fix it and start again,” she argued. “It needs to be fair for everybody.”