Tooke Report on Modernising Medical Careers calls for independent body to manage doctors’ training

Doctors’ training should be managed by an independent body and taken out of the hands of the Department of Health, an influential report has recommended.

A final report by Sir John Tooke looked at the Modernising Medical Careers (MMC) recruitment process after thousands of junior doctors were left without training posts last year.

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 – was ditched by ministers after complaints about security lapses and badly-worded application forms.

Tooke said a new body called NHS Medical Education England should be set up to manage postgraduate medical training, with cash ring-fenced to prevent trusts raiding budgets to help with debts.

He told the BBC that the botched reforms had created an inflexible structure that paid too little attention to candidates’ academic achievement and experience.

“We don’t believe that it will be possible to have successful implementation of a redesigned system (of training) now or in the future unless there is the creation of a new national body to drive those changes forward,” he said.

Dr Hamish Meldrum, chairman of council at the British Medical Association, said the report “charted a path that could lead out of the current mess” the government had made of doctors’ training.

“This inquiry has resulted in a damning indictment of the failings of government training reforms. We must never go back to a system that so contemptuously ignored the concerns of the medical profession.”

NHS Employers, which represents trusts on workforce issues, said it would consider carefully the report’s implications for employers across the service. “We will continue to act on behalf of employers in ensuring that, in taking forward any of the recommendations, we deliver what is truly best for patients, employers and the long-term future of our medical workforce,” the body said.

The Department of Health said it would now spend the next few months assessing the report, before setting out procedures for 2009.

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