Government concedes doctors’ training to be organised locally supported by new national IT system

Deaneries will organise their own recruitment process for specialist medical training in England in 2008 and junior doctor start dates will be staggered.

The government has announced that deaneries – bodies responsible for the education and continuing professional development of all doctors – will organise their own recruitment processes in the wake of this year’s Modernising Medical Careers (MMC) training debacle.

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 by Sir John Tooke said it was “rushed and poorly communicated”, with problems exacerbated by the high number of overseas applications – 10,000 of the 28,000 came from abroad.

The government has responded to this by announcing that a consultation will be held to consider whether UK graduates should be given some kind of priority.

Sir John said: “This has been a sorry episode for British postgraduate medicine, which has caused great distress to many trainees and their senior colleagues.”

Health minister Ben Bradshaw said: “We have learned important lessons from the difficulties with this year’s recruitment process and have apologised to junior doctors for any distress caused to them and their families. We said we would listen to doctors and their representatives and today’s announcement reflects this.”

A new secure national IT system for use in the future will also be developed, he said.

“If new or national systems are to be used in the future, they must be rigorously tested and agreed with doctors, the NHS and others involved,” Bradshaw added.

Sian Thomas, deputy director of NHS Employers, which represents NHS organisations on workforce issues, said: “Sir John’s conclusions reflect those of employers in the NHS on the changes necessary to make the MMC process work.”

Mr Ram Moorthy, chairman of the BMA junior doctors committee, said: “Any future system has to be properly piloted. It must be driven by input from the medical profession, and the interests of patients, rather than a short-term political agenda. Better workforce planning will be crucial.”

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