BMA calls for investigation into cost of MTAS

BMJ 2007; 335 doi: (Published 13 September 2007) Cite this as: BMJ 2007;335:534
  1. Lynn Eaton
  1. London

    The National Audit Office should carry out a full independent investigation of the cost to the taxpayer of the medical training application service (MTAS), the flawed computerised system used this year to appoint junior doctors to training posts in the UK, says the BMA.

    Andrew Rowland, vice chairman of the BMA's Junior Doctors Committee, says in a letter to the National Audit Office that it's not just the reported £1.9m (€2.8m; $3.9m) paid to an IT company to set up an online recruitment system that needs to be investigated. He says the potential hidden costs to the tax payer should be looked at as well. These may include the continuing costs of using MTAS to collect data, he says, and of the extra interviews that had to be arranged after the system was abandoned.

    “We know that thousands of doctors have had their careers messed up, that many of those who found posts still haven't been paid properly, and that others are going to be out of post next month,” said Dr Rowland.

    “What we don't yet know is how much public money has been wasted on this failed experiment. The £1.9m paid to the company that set up the failed MTAS IT system is the tip of the iceberg. In some ways we'll never know the real impact this disaster has had, because we'll never know how many doctors have been prevented from reaching their full potential or how many patients had their care delayed.”

    The BMA is already investigating continuing problems since junior doctors started their new posts on 1 August. Some doctors are being underpaid, for example. Many are still in temporary posts, which end in October. These were set up to plug gaps in the system after the collapse of MTAS and while the new arrangements were being sorted out.

    A spokesman for the National Audit Office said it had yet to see the letter but that it was unlikely to take any action until the inquiry into the affair being conducted by John Tooke, dean of the Peninsula Medical School, has reported (BMJ 2007;334:818 doi: 10.1136/bmj.39188.741053.4E). The House of Commons select committee on health announced in July that it would be looking into the NHS's Modernising Medical Careers programme and the MTAS system. The audit office spokesman said it would also wait until the committee had completed its inquiries.

    “It would make sense to see what they say before we respond,” he said.

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