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New doctor medical education training body mooted

An independent inquiry into Modernising Medical Careers finds that money to train the next generation of doctors should be ring-fenced and taken out of Department of Health control

An independent inquiry into Modernising Medical Careers (MMC), led by Professor Sir John Tooke, has found that money to train the next generation of doctors should be ring-fenced and taken out of Department of Health (DoH) control.

The inquiry was set up by ex-health secretary Patricia Hewitt in May 2007, who faced criticism and calls to resign regarding mistakes made over MTAS (Medical Training Application Service), which selected trainee doctors for specialist training.

MMC was supposed to reform postgraduate medical education and training, while accelerating the production of trained specialists. The move was aimed at cutting the number of years it takes for junior doctors to reach consultant level from about 14 years to 11.

In 2007, 32,649 applicants competed for 23,247 specialist training posts. Doctors said that application forms were confusing and many candidates were not granted interviews. As a result, the new national body the NHS Medical Education England (NHS: MEE) was formed to resolve many of the "functional deficiencies" highlighted in the October 2007 interim report.

The interim report revealed that the UK government reforms of medical training were rushed and lacked cohesion. It also showed evidence of weak DoH policy development, implementation and governance. Potential difficulties regarding MTAS were identified in 2005, but at the time the system was reportedly on schedule.

The report investigators recommended a radical overhaul of MMC, as the present system was unlikely to encourage or reward "striving for excellence" or offer trainees flexibility.

The interim report, which was subject to consultation, received "overwhelming support", with 87 per cent of 1,440 consultees agreeing with the recommendations.

The final report said the new NHS: MEE would hold the ring-fenced budget for medical education and training for England, while co-ordinating advice relating to medical education to the government.

8th January 2008

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