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The Department of Health has announced a compromise over the interview process for junior doctors in the latest twist in the continuing saga over their job applications. The BMA has welcomed the move, although Remedy UK, which has been leading the protests over the system, still intends to pursue its legal action, because it believes that the proposed interview process is unfair.
Junior doctors applying for jobs in England have been told that all their interviews will count, rather than having to decide after their interviews which post they want to pursue, at the expense of the others.
Those who have been called to interviews should attend them, says the group reviewing the medical training application system (MTAS). Any job offer will be fed into the centrally held MTAS computer system. This will then match the offers against the candidate's most preferred position, offering them only one post. All applicants will be notified on the same day as to which, if any, post they have been given. Those who are unsuccessful will be considered for the second round, although it is not yet known how many jobs will be held back for that round.
Applicants will have a chance to revise their original job options, on the basis of the competition ratios already published by Modernising Medical Careers (www.mtas.nhs.uk/info/ST_2007_1/comp_ratio.html). If they have put a highly popular specialty or geographical region as their first choice, and it is clear that their chances of getting that position are slim, they can opt for something less popular. They will then be guaranteed an interview for their first choice of job in their revised list.
In a statement Neil Douglas, chairman of the review group, said the group had considered rerunning the whole process: “In the end, it was simply not a credible option. It would be impossible to place the best candidates in posts and fulfil the service needs in time for August using the old system of recruitment.”
The devolved administrations in Wales, Scotland, and Northern Ireland have already announced plans to go it alone with their own systems.
The BMA, which had re-entered the review group talks after walking out last week, welcomed the announcement.
“We believe the latest offering from the review group to be a practical way forward,” said Jo Hilborne, chairwoman of the BMA's Junior Doctors Committee.
Matt Jameson-Evans, one of the organisers of Remedy UK, which was behind protest marches in London and Glasgow last month, was less prepared to compromise. He said, “You've got people interviewed for the same jobs months apart.
“They will have different sorts of interviews and different interview panels. There is no equity there.”
He refused to comment at this stage on how the legal action—to be taken by the human rights and clinical negligence lawyers Leigh Day and Co—would be funded. The group wants all interviews to be rerun for posts starting in February, with this August's appointments made on a temporary basis only.
For the latest news updates on MTAS see www.bmj.com.