Junior doctors walk out of job review body


LONDON (Reuters), Mar 26 - A dispute over a controversial selection system for senior medical training posts worsened on Friday after junior doctors' representatives said they had walked out of an official review aimed at solving the row.

The withdrawal threatens to extend the crisis over the shake-up of Britain's medical training system that has left more than 30,000 junior doctors chasing just 23,000 National Health Service posts.

Thousands of trainee medics marched through London last weekend in protest at a computerized application process that left many well-qualified candidates without a single interview.

Conservative leader David Cameron was cheered when he told the rally that the government should scrap the new training system if they could not fix it.

The British Medical Association (BMA) said its Junior Doctors Committee had left the review after it proposed that all suitable candidates would now be interviewed for the National Health Service posts, but only allowed one interview each.

The BMA said this would disadvantage the estimated 11,000 doctors who had been offered more than one interview.

"Anything that is not fair on junior doctors will crush morale and drive many away from the NHS," said Jo Hilborne, chairman of the BMA Junior Doctors Committee.

"We will continue to express to the government the urgency of a solution that is acceptable to 33,000 increasingly angry doctors whose careers have been jeopardized by this shambles of a system," she added.

Many junior doctors are considering going abroad to complete their medical training after failing to get job interviews on the Medical Training Application Service system.

The government announced the review of the selection process earlier this month after protests from the BMA and the royal medical colleges.

Professor Neil Douglas, the head of the review, said in a statement that its proposal was "the most equitable and practical solution available".

The Department of Health said it was disappointed at the BMA withdrawal.

"Now that we are implementing the review group's recommendations we would like the BMA to work with us," a health department spokeswoman said.

"The review group has already looked at a wide range of options and its recommendations will mean that almost every junior doctor who has applied will have the opportunity to attend their first choice interview, rather than a few being offered several choices", she added.

By Tim Castle

Last Updated: 2007-03-23 13:00:59 -0400 (Reuters Health)

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