Doctors chaos 'is worst crisis to hit NHS'
By Celia Hall, Medical Editor Daily Telegraph
Last Updated: 12:49am GMT 04/03/2007
The chaos created by a new training system for young doctors is the "biggest crisis to hit British medicine", a leading surgeon said yesterday.
Prof Gus McGrowther: 'This is the biggest crisis to hit British medicine since the start of the NHS'
The new system, being investigated by the Royal College of Surgeons, has left thousands of junior doctors without jobs as trainee consultants.
Their current posts will end in August and fears are growing about how hospitals will cope.
The despairing and increasingly angry doctors have set the date for a London protest march and are taking legal advice about the equity of the new system. A fighting fund has been set up.
On Monday all the medical royal colleges will meet to discuss the crisis.
Hundreds of junior doctors, who have spent many years and thousands of pounds on training, have inundated The Daily Telegraph website to tell of their despair.
Rob Henderson, a senior house officer, said: "Hospitals run because of the goodwill of the doctors, evidently this has now been shattered and with it patient care."
Sarah Cregan, wrote: "I have spent 10 years training to be a doctor and have invested not just my own time and money but that of my family's including grandparents. I feel very let down."
The fury of scores of young doctors came as Prof Gus McGrowther, professor of plastic and reconstructive surgery at Manchester University, said he was profoundly concerned about the effect of the new system on patients as well as on medicine.
"This is the biggest crisis to hit British medicine since the start of the NHS," he said. "We are sacrificing thousands of young doctors who are partially trained and committed to a career in the NHS.
"We have 200 doctors who would like to be plastic surgeons and 50 jobs. Of these 150 are already very well qualified and already members of the Royal College of Surgeons.
"They have spent an enormous amount of money creating this new system and the whole thing is spiralling into chaos. It is quite immoral to inflict this on motivated young doctors. I cannot find a single doctor who is happy with this flawed process and ultimately it is the patients who will suffer."
Bernard Ribeiro, the president of the Royal College of Surgeons, wrote to all members on Thursday listing five "fundamental difficulties" in the system.
There have been 30,000 applications for 22,000 consultant training jobs under the Modernising Medical Careers scheme, accessed by the website called the Medical Training Application Service.
"For 18 months I have tried to get this system modified and the number of surgery places expanded," Mr Ribeiro said. "I have not succeeded. This system must be reviewed urgently.
"One problem is the website, which is open to the whole world. Anyone can apply. But the application forms are designed to be so unbiased that you could quite easily get an EU candidate offered an interview when a better qualified, British trained doctor is ignored."
In the new structure doctors do two years of "foundation" training and then apply for consultant training to become specialist registrars. The first foundation trainees are now ready to move to the registrar stage but they are clashing with the senior house officers from the old system.
There is also an unknown number of EU and overseas doctors in the mix. Mr Ribeiro said the heavily criticised application forms might be suitable for the foundation trainees but took no account of the experience and qualifications of the older SHOs.
"We need a different system for the SHOs as the new system is phased," he said.
Problems listed by the royal college are: "woolly" questions on the application forms; concern that qualifications have not been taken into account; concern about the adequacy of training for assessors; inconsistent rating and errors in reporting the results.
The fury of scores of young doctors came as Prof Gus McGrowther, professor of plastic and reconstructive surgery at Manchester University, said he was profoundly concerned about the effect of the new system on patients as well as on medicine. "This is the biggest crisis to hit medicine since the start of the NHS," he said. "They have spent an enormous amount of money creating this system and it is spiralling into chaos."
A spokesman for the Department of Health said: "It would be irresponsible to halt the interview process at this late stage. We cannot know whether the wrong people were invited for interview until they are interviewed."
Tony Blair's official spokesman sought to play down the crisis, saying: "The main thing is the overall number of doctors, as with nurses, has gone up."
A DOCTOR COMMENTS
I have a medical degree from london, a "golden london SHO rotation" disctinctions throughout medical school, 100% in my medical and surgical finals (i joke you not), all my postgrad exams, posters, papers in progress, a pan-london audit etc etcAnd I have sat in front of the computer all day - waiting to see whether this incompetent system has granted me a future in medicine. I'm still waiting.All day the website had been plagued with problems, doctors rushing from one computer terminal to the other trying to pretend their looking at blood results when in fact they are looking for a glimmer of hope that they still have a career, or job in the NHS come August.Do you want to hear the biggest joke. In 2009 the EWTD says doctors have to reduce their hours. A year ago official figures predicted hospitals wouldnt have enough doctors. When they make 6000 of us unemployed this summer and we all pack up our lives and move to america or australia - within a year they will be "flying in SHOs" from abroad to meet the staffing crisis. For a huge price no doubt. Not very smart.And now I will continue to stare into my computer screen to see if a dedicated intelligent doctor has to "sign on" in August.Well done Blair.Well done Patricia Hewitt.How are you going to spin this one to the patients?????SHO soon to be unemployed.