Three into two won't go

BMJ 2007; 334 doi: (Published 10 May 2007) Cite this as: BMJ 2007;334:974
  1. Lynn Eaton
  1. London

    Amid the chaos over applications for medical training posts in the UK, everyone is asking: how could the government have got its numbers so wrong? Lynn Eaton reports

    In the quagmire of statistics relating to the issue of training posts for junior doctors in the United Kingdom one fact stands out clearly: more than 30 000 doctors are applying for about 20 000 training posts. How did this happen? Who are the applicants? And are they all on an equal footing, or are some more equal than others?

    A large number of people will undoubtedly fail to secure a training post through the medical training application system (MTAS) and will end up in the less desirable staff grade position, from where it will be almost impossible to become a consultant. Some might not get a job at all; some will undoubtedly go abroad. But it is not clear who will fall into each category.

    Until the government announced in March this year that doctors who qualified in countries outside the European Economic Area (EEA) would be eligible to apply for the training posts (which had not been the plan in 2006), the figures were not quite so startlingly mismatched. As many as 11 400 of those currently applying may have qualified abroad, although many are already working in the NHS. If that number is subtracted from the estimated number of applicants (which varies from about 32 000 to 36 000), and the number of jobs is about 20 000, the shortfall might have been as little as 600—although there would still have been a shortfall. But why should doctors who …

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