Feature Briefing

MTAS—where are we now?

BMJ 2007; 334 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.39188.477002.59 (Published 19 April 2007) Cite this as: BMJ 2007;334:824
  1. Colleen Shannon, freelance medical journalist
  1. colleenshannonuk{at}yahoo.co.uk

    As the UK's medical training fiasco continues, Colleen Shannon takes a detailed snapshot of where trainees currently stand

    What's the problem?

    Each year thousands of junior doctors compete fiercely for training posts in the NHS. These posts lead eventually to the coveted title of consultant, and the route has never been an easy one. However, junior doctors say that recent reforms of the selection and training system have made this one of the worst years ever.

    There are three parts to the problem. Firstly, a new, centralised selection process is being introduced. It has been plagued with problems, and as a result the shortlisting process for the latest recruitment round has collapsed. There have been claims that the medical training application system (MTAS, see box) failed to pick up all the best candidates and that many excellent doctors were not shortlisted for interview. Also, junior doctors were required to apply online, but the MTAS website suffered technical problems at a critical time in the process. The process is now behind schedule, and because posts must be filled by August the deadlines have become very short.

    Secondly, the number of applicants far exceeds the number of training posts that will be available. This situation is related to the underlying system of workforce planning. Thirdly, in the background is a radical change to training (as a result of the NHS's new Modernising Medical Careers (MMC) strategy—see box), which is new territory for juniors and their mentors alike. Training periods will be shorter, and the career path is more rigid than before. However, it should mean that more junior doctors will progress to be consultants earlier on in their careers.

    A primer: MMC and MTAS

    The NHS Plan, published in 2000, promised to modernise the senior house officer (SHO) grade, which was seen to lack clear educational and career pathways. …

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