Wednesday, 6 June 2007

From The Times

From The Time,
June 6, 2007
Junior doctors
Sir, Last year the Postgraduate Medical Education and Training Board (PMETB) issued the laudable requirement that processes for recruitment, selection and appointment into specialist run-through training programmes should be open, fair and effective. Subsequently, the Medical Training Application Service (MTAS) has failed to achieve them. An independent judicial review branded the system flawed and disastrous, and Mr Justice Goldring accepted that many junior doctors could have an entirely justifiable sense of grievance.The chairman of PMETB has now claimed (letter, June 2) that it has no responsibility for the current crisis affecting junior doctors’ recruitment, claiming that its powers “do not encompass. . .choosing between eligible candidates”. Such evasiveness does not concur with the evidence given to the High Court, that the PMETB “was responsible for laying down the basic principles of recruitment to specialist training posts”, that it instigated the change to the new (competency-based) shortlisting process, and that they issued guidance concerning the use of CVs.PMETB is the body established in 2003 to develop a unifying framework for postgraduate medical education, and assume regulatory roles previously the responsibility of the independent medical royal colleges. The PMETB is neither directly answerable to Parliament nor independent of political control; the Secretary of State can give such directions as she considers appropriate.Many of the board members have potentially conflicting roles on other medical bodies. For example, Dame Carol Black is also chairman of the Academy of Medical Royal Colleges, in which role she has publicly supported the Chief Medical Officer for pioneering the present reforms (letter, May 17). She is chair of the Health Honours Committee, and an adviser to the Department of Health. Another member of the PMETB Board, Professor Neil Douglas, has chaired the “independent” review group set up to examine the failures of the MTAS.There are few precedents for a regulatory body with responsibility for the education of doctors not to have responsibility for equity and appropriateness of entry to that education. The general public and their doctors are left to wonder who, if anyone, will take professional responsibility for regulating the novel and previously unvalidated selection system.

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