Review group sets out compromise deal

The Department of Health has set out a compromise deal to try to end the confusion and anger over interviews for junior doctor posts in England.

It announced late this afternoon that candidates for posts in England who have already been interviewed would not have to opt ‘blind’ for one post, without knowing the outcome of the interview, or what the competition was.
Instead, all interviews offered will count, says the MTAS review group. But applicants will only be offered one position, based on which was their preferred post.

The decision of who gets what will be taken centrally. Interviewers — who are not aware of where they lie in the applicant’s preference list — will notify the centralised MTAS computer of which candidates they are willing to offer a position to. The computer then matches this data with details of which position applicants most wanted, according to what they put highest on their list. It will then offer successful applicants just one job each, based on which of the posts they have been offered that they wanted the most. All applicants will be notified what, if any, post they have been given on the same day.

Applicants will get a chance to revise their preferences — and possibly increase their chances of being offered a post they will be happy with. They will be able to do this between 20-23 April, basing their decision on the existing competition ratios published by Modernising Medical Careers. They can then opt to alter their order of preference — for instance, applying for a speciality or a region where there is less competition than their original first choice.

If an applicant puts in for a revised first choice, they will be guaranteed an interview for that post — even if they have already had interviews for positions on their original list of preferences.

Applicants who have not been shortlisted at all so far will have a chance to revise their order of preference – or reconfirm their original choices — between 20 – 23 April, in the light of competition ratios.

Applicants will then be invited for interview for their affirmed first preference. But, as with those who have had interviews so far, successful applicants will only be offered one post.

Anyone who is unable to secure a position in round one will be able to apply again in round 2. This will be done on the basis of a structured CV and formal interview. It is still unclear what proportion of posts will be held back for round 2. This will be debated at the next meeting of the MTAS review group, on 17 April.

The statement from the review group, which is chaired by Professor Neil Douglas, said: “We recognise that this has been a challenging time for consultants, junior doctors and the service and have heard and appreciated the deep concerns that they have raised.

“Serious consideration has been given to all of the options available, including a full and detailed analysis of pulling out of the current selection process completely.

“In the end, it was simply not a credible option. It would be impossible to place the best candidates in posts and fulfil the service needs in time for August using the old system of recruitment. We believe we have come up with the best available solution for England.”

The review group believes the main concerns are around the selection process rather than Modernising Medical Careers as such.

The proposals mean there may be differences in the recruitment procedures between specialties and in different parts of the UK. The devolved adminstrations – Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland – have already announced plans to go it alone. Applications for general practice positions have gone well and, apart from a slight change in the timetable, will continue as planned.

Details have yet to be announced for those applying for positions in academic medicine, But applicants will still be considered for any application for a clinical position, in round 1, in the meantime.

The BMA, which had re-entered the review group talks after walking out last week, welcomed the announcement.

“It was never going to be easy finding a way out of the mess that MTAS has created,” said Dr Jo Hilborne, Chairman of Junior Doctors Committee.

“The JDC has been determined to fight for a solution which is fair and equitable. We believe the latest offering from the review group to be a practical way forward, which does not waste the hard work of thousands of applicants preparing for and attending interview. A robust second round of interviews is essential and we will continue to work for this.

“Junior doctors have endured weeks of turmoil. Their lives have been turned upside down by this shambolic and incompetent training application system. This debacle should never have happened and we urge the Government to launch a fully independent inquiry into this sorry mess.”

Dr Jonathan Fielden, Chairman of the BMA’s Consultants Committee, who was also in the talks, said the whole process had to be reviewed for future applicants.

Further interviews will take place during May and candidates will be told the outcome of round 1 interviews by 8 June. David Nicholson, NHS Chief Executive, will write to NHS organisations to ask that applicants and consultants be released to support this process

Professor Douglas encouraged candidates to attend all interviews they were invited to. Details of the procedure will be posted on the MMC website by 16 April.

For further information, go straight to the review group’s letter to applicants at Modernising Medical Careers or click here to see the review group’s statement.