The Department of Health has announced a snap review of an online application website for junior doctors seeking specialist training posts after problems caused the system to “descend into pandemonium” at the end of last month.
The Medical Training Application Service (MTAS) website, which was launched in January, crashed under pressure of large numbers of junior doctors trying to apply for training posts simultaneously, while other problems with the online process meant deadlines had to be extended.
The British Medical Association warned last week that the system may have wrongly disqualified junior doctors who should have received interview offers for specialist training posts. The doctors union said the system had “descended into pandemonium” as user volumes increased.
The DoH has now announced a review of “round one” of the specialist training recruitment process carried out through MTAS, admitting: “It is clear that there have been a number of problems with MTAS, and that the process as a whole has created a high degree of insecurity amongst applicants and, indeed, more widely in the profession.”
The review – which begins today and will be completed by the end of the month – will consider MTAS functionality including capacity, software support, helpdesk support and security issues.
It will be led by Professor Neil Douglas, vice-president of the Academy of Medical Royal Colleges and president of the Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh.
Changes would be made before the start of “round two” of the selection process, which begins on 28 April. Doctors who were not granted an interview in the first round of recruitment would be able to apply in the second round, the DoH said.
BMA junior doctors’ representative Dr Jo Hilborne said: “The government has finally been forced to address the appalling problems with this system. We have been warning since last summer that these reforms were being rushed through too quickly. From the point of view of the thousands of doctors who’ve been messed around, given incorrect information, or denied job opportunities that they deserved, it’s a shame the government didn’t listen then.”
But Hilborne added that the response was “too late” and did not go far enough. “While we welcome a review, the only fair solution now is for the interview process to be suspended until it can be clearly shown that no doctor has been disadvantaged as a result of the government’s mistakes.”