Report criticises govt control of medic training

Sir John Tooke completes report into junior doctor recruitment
Sir John Tooke completes report into junior doctor recruitment

The government should be stripped of its responsibility for overseeing the training of junior doctors, a report into last year's medic recruitment fiasco has concluded.

The report by professor Sir John Tooke's calls for an independent body to control the recruitment of junior medics, arguing the Department of Health (DoH) should not be in charge of funds for training the next generation of medics.

Thousands of medics were left without training placements last year after a series of errors in the new recruitment process, prompting junior doctors to take to the streets demanding Patricia Hewitt's resignation as health secretary.

An interim report in October said the introduction of the new Modernising Medical Careers (MMC) system had been rushed and lacked cohesion and today's publication completes these criticisms.

Professor Tooke recommends that the proposed NHS Medical Education England (NHS: MEE), financed by ring-fenced budgets, would address many of the "functional deficiencies" identified in last autumn's report.

MMC was designed to streamline the recruitment system but has been beset with problems since its onset. It was finally abandoned after a security lapse allowed applicants' personal information to be briefly available online.

The wording of online application forms was also criticised, after it was claimed good candidates were not selected for interviews while some consultants reportedly walked out of interviews in despair at the poor quality of candidates selected by the system.

Ms Hewitt, then in charge of the DoH, tasked Professor Tooke with conducting a review in May after thousands of junior medics were left without training posts.

The DoH welcomed today's report. A spokesperson said: "It is an excellent piece of work and its contents have found favour with a wide cross section of the medical profession and others involved in medical education and training.

"Some of the long terms issues, including the role of the doctors and the shape of the future workforce, are already key parts of Lord Darzi's NHS Review.

"We will be looking to produce a response to Sir John's recommendations as soon as possible."

The British Medical Association (BMA) has already warned it expects the recruitment situation to worsen this year, with three applicants set to compete for every post in 2008, up from two applicants last year.

It is expected more than 23,000 doctors will compete for around 8,500 to 9,000 training posts.

With competition so fraught, the BMA warns applications for places will be little better than a "lottery".

Today's report identifies applications from overseas as a considerable source of pressure on junior doctors competing for places.


Politics @ Lunch

Friday lunchtime. Your Inbox. It's a date.