LONDON (Reuters), May 21 - The chairman of the British Medical Association (BMA) has quit amid a row over a flawed doctors' job selection process, the association said on Sunday.
James Johnson, who has been BMA chairman for almost four years, said he was stepping down after criticism from colleagues that he failed to convey doctors' anger over problems with the government's Medical Training Application System (MTAS).
The computerized selection process for specialist NHS training posts has been subject to a legal challenge in the High Court, with a decision expected this week.
MTAS has come in for fierce criticism from junior doctors and senior medics, who have branded it unfair, and has also been dogged by a catalogue of security breaches and errors that left thousands of medics without an interview.
Johnson, a vascular surgeon based in the northwest of England, said he had not intended to seek re-election for a fifth and final year in June, but would quit early amid "unhappiness" within the association.
He conceded he had not consulted senior colleagues within the BMA over a letter he and Dame Carol Black, chairwoman of the Academy of Medical Royal Colleges, sent to the Times newspaper on the subject last week.
BMA treasurer David Pickersgill said that, while the letter reflected the association's "agreed position" of working toward a "pragmatic solution" to the problems, its "tone failed to reflect the anger being currently expressed by members of the association, particularly junior doctors."
"It was felt to be insufficiently sensitive and has led to a loss of confidence in the chairman," Pickersgill said in a statement.
The BMA said "interim arrangements" would be put in place while it set about electing a new chairman.
Johnson has worked with the BMA since he became a medical student in 1969.
The Department of Health temporarily closed its MTAS Web site around four weeks ago after security breaches.
The system was already subject to an official review after it failed to give thousands of junior doctors interviews for specialist training posts, leading many to consider moving abroad to complete their medical education.
More than 34,000 doctors are chasing 18,500 British posts, due to start in August.
The BMA has appealed to Prime Minister Tony Blair to use his personal influence to achieve an "urgent and comprehensive" fix for the catalogue of problems, which saw thousands of trainee medics take part in a London protest march in March.
By Jennifer Hill
Last Updated: 2007-05-21 12:00:29 -0400 (Reuters Health)
Copyright © 2007 Reuters Limited. All rights reserved. Republication or redistribution of Reuters content, including by framing or similar means, is expressly prohibited without the prior written consent of Reuters. Reuters shall not be liable for any errors or delays in the content, or for any actions taken in reliance thereon. Reuters and the Reuters sphere logo are registered trademarks and trademarks of the Reuters group of companies around the world.