Protestors lobby Westminster

Some 400 junior doctors joined the rally outside parliament today and many of them went on to lobby their individual MPs in the Commons.

The action, organised by Remedy UK, coincided with an opposition debate on the MTAS debacle.

Conservative health spokesperson Andrew Lansley called on the government to create additional training posts for those senior house officers who during 2007, 2008 and 2009 would be moving from the old style training into the new training structure. And he called on the recently announced Review Group, led by Sir John Tooke, to “listen to the medical profession in reviewing the structure of Modernising Medical Careers to ensure that the original principles, including flexibility, are sustained and command the confidence of the medical profession.”

Some of the angry protestors who were in the public gallery intervened during the debate and were warned by the Speaker that they could face eviction if they continued to do so.

In her response to the opposition-led debate, the Secretary of State Patricia Hewitt tried to clarify the continuing debate about how many training posts were available and how many doctors might not gain places.

“About 23,000 postgraduate medical training appointments are available across the UK this year,” she said. “Of those, 3,000 are being filled by recruitment to general practice, and just over 19,000 places are available on MTAS at the moment, with a further 700 to be added to the system.

“Of the 32,000 or so eligible applicants for those training posts, about 30,000 are already working in the NHS, about 6,000 of whom are completing their foundation programme, and about 8,000 of whom state on their applications that they are working in non-training posts—trust jobs, staff jobs, locum posts and so on.

“About 16,000 say that they are working as senior house officers, but because of the deficiencies in the present system, many of those posts are not proper training posts either.”

Although many of those in non-training posts would not get onto training, they would continue to have a job, she said. She added that the Department of Health was working with the royal medical colleges and the NHS to establish the need for additional training posts, including one-year placements and more senior posts.

Ms Hewitt had outlined the remit of Sir John Tooke’s review of MMC earlier in the day. These include looking at the selection process, ensuring the medical profession is involved with and supportive of the proposals, and the level of choice available to those applying for run-through training.