From a junior doctor:
This week is set to be a historic one for both Junior Doctors and NHS patients throughout the country. Remedy UK, a grassroots doctors' organization was set up in response to a growing loss of confidence in the implementation of medical training reform and in employment strategy within the medical profession. Accumulating an astounding 10,000 members in the 5 months since it launched, and in unprecedented and historic action tomorrow, Remedy UK are taking the Department of Health (DoH) to court. Although Patricia Hewitt today announced the scrapping of the disasterous online application system, she remains intent on seeing through round one of the system, which has been plagued by astounding incompetence.
The DoH have recently taken command of hospital doctors' recruitment with the aims of a central computerised process replacing a local, regionally based system. Despite repeated warnings from the medical profession, the Medical Training Application Service (MTAS) was rushed through untested and the devastation it has left is unspeakable. It has spat in the faces not only of doctors but also of patients.
The incompetence is multi-fold. Selection criteria was so flawed it forced a change of interview scoring half-way through, resulting in the first half of applicants being interviewed without any consideration of their curriculum vitae, previous experience or recognized awards of excellence. Applications were lost in cyberspace, or were sent to the wrong jobs and some NHS consultants were given 4 hours to assess 600 applications.
Hewitt was forced to set up a review group that spat out weekly proposals that were rejected as the inadequacies of each were highlighted. And each DoH rescue suggestion sent waves of despair through doctors as they were effectively told they would have to move house and separate from their partners or families or their careers were effectively over.
Everyone in the country, whatever their profession, can and should be able to apply for as many jobs, as many times as they desire. We all have mortgages to pay, families to care for, established lives to live. The DoH's final attempt to correct these profound and fundamental errors proposes that all doctors be offered a "rescue" interview. Fair enough, you say. Not fair enough, I say. Ten years training at £250,000 each - we are granted one shot each to get on a one-point-of-entry conveyor belt that blocks all future attempts to re-enter. And previous interviews will still count - including those not accounting for CV's, experience or awards.
If the best doctors are out there, patients should be treated by them. The recent unprecedented displays of public protest by doctors are because the medical profession has no confidence that this will be the case. It is suggested that these spoilt doctors are all fighting over prized training posts - well, yes, we are. Because we want to be trained, we want to be competent. We want you, our patients to be looked after properly. If we can't be the best possible doctors in this country, we'll be forced to leave, and some already have.
Medicine has always been a highly competitive field right from entry to medical school. Competition has become a part of our lives - indeed, we encourage it. Competition pushes us to strive for the best and it provides you, the patients, with the best possible doctors. We don't feel we deserve jobs or employment security for life, we just want to be considered fairly within a competitive system.
So wish us luck tomorrow, for you and for us. Let's hope justice prevails and your doctors of tomorrow will be the best you deserve. We'll see you in court.