As angry junior doctors meet tomorrow for their annual BMA conference, the government has issued a formal statement in the Commons saying it has temporarily suspended the MTAS site following the security breach earlier this week.
“This breach had no impact on the current recruitment of junior doctors into specialty training,” health secretary Patricia Hewitt told the house.
“The data was accessible only for a short period of time on 25 April. Details of the website address were leaked to the media. The MTAS team removed the data as soon as the error was brought to their attention. The Department, of course, deplores such leaks.”
She said the department had decided to suspend the site temporarily while they perform full independent security tests. It means applicants wanting to confirm interviews in the next few days will have to do so by telephone, rather than using the website.
“We expect the suspension to have minimal impact on the current round of recruitment into specialty training,” she said.
“We take security very seriously and the breaches are under urgent investigation by the Department. This investigation will seek to establish how the security breaches arose, who accessed any data without authorisation and what steps need to be taken to prevent a recurrence.”
A spokesperson for Modernising Medical Careers said it was intended that the interview booking section of MTAS would be available to applicants again very soon and with the minimal disruption to their application process.
“Specialty and GP applicants will receive an email to let them know when the system is up and running again. We expect that this will be by Monday, 30 April,” she said.
Meanwhile the BMA’s chairman, James Johnson, has written to the Prime Minister Tony Blair warning that unless the government addresses the matter urgently, concerns can only increase among medical students and junior doctors.
His letter highlights new flaws in the system, including UK doctors incorrectly being told that they could not apply for posts because they did not have the “correct immigration status