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Junior doctors lobbied MPs on Tuesday because they are so aggrieved at the computerised application process for jobs that start this August in the United Kingdom.
This was the latest protest against the medical training application service (MTAS) organised by Remedy UK, which was behind similar marches in London and Glasgow in March (BMJ 2007;334:602-3, doi: 10.1136/bmj.39160.616470.DB, 24 Mar).
The protesters started with a rally outside the Houses of Parliament then some of the doctors went on to lobby their MPs inside the House of Commons. Although only three doctors or their supporters were able to lobby their own constituency MP, the organisers wanted as many as possible to attend the rally. It coincides with an opposition debate on the training reforms for NHS doctors known as Modernising Medical Careers (MMC).
“Many MPs will be under the impression that the review body have solved our problems,” said a spokesperson. “We need them to understand that this is not the case.”
Matt Jameson Evans, one of the Remedy UK organisers, said that they expected 300-400 people to lobby MPs but far more at the rally.
Meanwhile, the BMA has called for an urgent meeting with the health secretary, Patricia Hewitt, after a study showed that more than half of all junior doctors would consider leaving the UK if their applications under MTAS were unsuccessful.
A survey on the BMA's website of 648 applicants was carried out at the end of March and asked about their intentions if their applications were unsuccessful. Fifty five per cent said that they would be likely to seek opportunities abroad and complete their training there. And 44% said that they would leave medicine and seek alternative employment in the UK.
The BMA has also written to all UK MPs in advance of an opposition day debate expressing its concern at the numbers of junior doctors who might leave the UK.
But its action to date has been questioned from some quarters. According to reports in Hospital Doctor (19 Apr, p 1), Iain Varley, a senior house officer in oral surgery, is leading a campaign calling for a vote of no confidence in the way that the BMA has handled the situation. He needs 1000 signatures to trigger an extraordinary general meeting (see www.bma-vote.co.uk).
The BMA's chairman, James Johnson, has called for unity rather than infighting: “The BMA has been taking a stand against the handling of MMC for a long time and we're now at a crucial stage,” he said. “We are pushing for improvements in the second round of MTAS, for an independent review to look at how this debacle happened, and, more importantly, for a safety net for doctors who do not get training posts in August.”
Remedy UK, meanwhile, intends to continue with its legal action against MTAS (BMJ 2007;334:715, doi: 10.1136/bmj.39174.463449.DB, 7 Apr).