The British Medical Association fears that problems with an NHS online application website may have wrongly disqualified junior doctors who should have received interview offers for specialist training posts.
The concern follows problems last week with the new Medical Training Application Service website, which the BMA said had “descended into pandemonium”. The website had crashed under pressure of large numbers of junior doctors trying to apply for training posts simultaneously, and problems with the online application process meant deadlines had to be extended.
A BMA spokesperson said the applications process had now been completed, and junior doctors had now received notification of whether or not they had secured an interview for a specialist training post. But he added: “A strange number of people have not had any interview offers.” These included candidates who appeared to be well qualified for the posts, he said.
“Our concern is that it’s possible that flaws in the system have resulted in people who should have been offered interviews not getting any,” he said.
The doctors’ union wrote to health secretary Patricia Hewitt warning that the MTAS website had “experienced a large number of technical problems”.
The letter highlighted an “underestimation of demand for the service”, difficulties experienced by junior doctors submitting applications online and problems with the selection of training posts.
“Despite several discussions which hypothesised typical figures of well over 35,000 applications, the system failed to cope with demand and extra support was required,” it said.
Doctors also reported that choosing certain combinations of posts was “wrongly prohibited” by the system, the letter added.
The BMA had been “inundated with technical queries as members tried and failed to access the site”, the union told Hewitt. Many doctors were unable to submit their applications on time.
Dr Jo Hilborne, chair of the BMA’s junior doctors committee, said: “If any doctor has been disadvantaged because of any of these problems, the BMA will fight for their right to fair treatment. It’s time for the government to take responsibility.”