Challenging times for junior doctors as NHS aims to avoid repeat of 2007 recruitment fiasco

Employers in the NHS face ‘challenging’ times over the next few months as competition for training places for junior doctors heats up.

The Department of Health has estimatedthere will be between 8,300 and 8,600 specialist training posts available in England next year, with about three times as many applicants.

The British Medical Association (BMA) said it had serious concerns about the training process, following this year’s Modernising Medical Careers (MMC) fiasco.

MMC was designed to cut the number of years it took for junior doctors to reach consultant level. Part of the system – the online Medical Training Application Service (MTAS) – was ditched by ministers after complaints about security lapses and badly worded application forms.

An independent inquiry into the system failure said it was “rushed and poorly communicated”, with problems exacerbated by the high number of overseas applications – 10,000 of the 28,000 applicants came from abroad.

The government subsequently announced that the deaneries – the bodies responsible for the education and continuing professional development of all doctors – would organise their own recruitment.

An initial recruitment period will run from 5 January until 16 May 2008, by which date NHS trusts will have been notified of successful applicants.

Steve Barnett, director of NHS Employers, has written to health service human resources directors with an update on MMC plans.

“The next few months will remain challenging, not least for those junior doctors whose future careers are dependent on the outcome of the forthcoming recruitment cycle,” the letter stated.

“It is important that these doctors receive high-quality realistic careers advice, which is why I would encourage you to work with your deanery to ensure that your juniors have the opportunity to benefit from career management briefings and support ahead of starting applications next year.”

Ram Moorthy, chairman of the BMA’s Junior Doctors Committee, said: “We’re gearing up for a very difficult process next year. Doctors aren’t scared of competition, but they deserve to be selected on ability rather than luck.”

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