The Department of Health acted in an “inept” manner and needs to “get a grip”, according to a new report by the Health Committee on a troubled medical recruitment system that was axed last year.
The “totally inadequate” leadership of the department “must address its weaknesses in project and risk management”, MPs said in a report on the Modernising Medical Careers project.
The report - the fourth to be released this week containing damning statements on government IT systems - goes on to detail a catalogue of errors.
The Modernising Medical Careers programme aimed to reform postgraduate medical training. But MPs called last year a “crisis” and a “disaster” for the programme.
But the report said the Medical Training Application Service (MTAS) IT system became “highly unpopular”, worsened by the government taking an “embarrassing” lack of action to restrict the number of applications from doctors outside the European Economic Area.
The problem, coupled with serious security breaches, led to heavy media coverage with the British Medical Association branding the problem "shambolic".
Kevin Barron MP, chairman of the committee, said “serious problems” remained unresolved. “In all this chaos we are left asking, who was looking at the bigger picture?”
He said there was no evidence of a systematic basis for calculating postgraduate training numbers. The London NHS deanery, which handles training, had worked 7,500 hours of overtime to deliver a replacement recruitment system quickly.
“The Department of Health, other relevant Government departments, and the medical profession must get a grip and resolve this mess that has diminished the reputations of all those concerned, and resulted in untold amounts of stress on junior doctors across the country and beyond.”
The MTAS system collapsed last summer under the weight of applications, and was axed by former health secretary Patricia Hewitt after problems with the online applications meant applicants were wrongly denied interviews for specialist medical training posts.
In April 2007, a major security breach saw doctors’ confidential personal information - including addresses, phone numbers and sexual orientation - made available online.
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