Hewitt concedes doctors' training review

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The government has announced a long-term review of the application process used for specialist roles in the NHS.

Health secretary Patricia Hewitt, bowing to pressure from unhappy trainee doctors over the perceived injustices of the Modernising Medical Careers (MMC) programme, said today that the review would "clarify and strengthen" the underlying principles of the initiative.

The Department of Health (DoH) has been severely attacked over the MMC programme, which critics claim has complicated the recruitment process to the detriment of clinical care.

Junior doctors protested in London and Glasgow against the initiative last month, forcing Ms Hewitt to open up 5,000 more roles to the 22,000 currently available. In total around 30,000 trainees have applied for the jobs.

Now the DoH has said a wider review looking forward to 2008 will take place, building on the work of a current review already in place.

"The move we are making to a transparent, competence-based training system based on clear standards, that provides a level playing field for all junior doctors and the best possible doctors for patients is the right way forward and is widely accepted," Ms Hewitt said.

"However, I want trainees to understand that excellence and high achievement are still at the heart of the system.

"The design and implementation of MMC will inevitably involve a great range of stakeholders from the Royal Colleges, individual employers, postgraduate deaneries, the BMA, doctors themselves and patients. I want the review to address this and help us make sure we engage with the stakeholders as effectively as possible."

The BMA has already voiced its disapproval of the initiative, however.

Jo Hilborne, chairperson of the BMA's junior doctors' committee, said that "the government's handling of training reforms has been appalling".

"The BMA has been warning for years that MMC was being rushed in too quickly, to the detriment of patient care," she added.

"It's depressing that it's taken a disaster on this scale for them to listen. We need solutions that ensure that no doctor in training loses out on a career as a result of government mistakes or poor workforce planning."

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