The government has been forced to back down and offer interviews to junior doctors who may have been wrongly excluded after an NHS online application system for specialist training posts spiralled into chaos.
But the move is not enough to satisfy angry junior doctors leaders, who have demanded that the Medical Training Application Service (MTAS) be scrapped.
The Department of Health last week announced a snap review of MTAS after its website crashed under pressure of large numbers of junior doctors trying to submit online applications simultaneously.
The British Medical Association warned that the system, introduced in January, may have wrongly disqualified junior doctors who should have received interview offers, saying the system had “descended into pandemonium”.
The DoH launched the review but initially said doctors who had not received interview offers would have to wait for a “second round” in the application process. But after early hearings by the review, the department backed down and agreed that doctors who fear they have been overlooked will be able to have their applications reconsidered, with successful candidates allowed into the first round of interviews.
The government also announced “immediate steps to strengthen the interview process”, including allowing applicants to provide CVs and portfolios to support their applications.
Health minister Lord Hunt said: “I welcome this review and thank everyone on the team who worked so hard to find a way forward. I know that this has been a difficult time for junior doctors and I hope that this reassures them that we have listened to their concerns, and that our goal is the same as theirs: to find the right people for the right jobs for the benefit of the NHS, its patients and its staff."
The DoH said “significant changes” would be made to improve selection in the second round. This will include changes to the application form and the scoring system used in the online process.
The department pledged that the revised system would be tested with junior doctors, selectors, recruitment teams and NHS employers, and agreed with the medical royal colleges.
But the BMA’s junior doctors committee voted at the weekend for the MTAS system to be axed and a return to the previous system for medical training appointments. The committee also agreed to back doctors’ protest marches planned for Saturday 17 March.