A government document on the future of medical training is a positive first step, the BMA said. However, it warns against excessive delays in implementing essential changes.
The Department of Health in England today (Thursday 28 February, 2008) published its official response to Sir John Tooke's independent inquiry into the Modernising Medical Careers reforms. It has agreed to implement many of the recommendations but delayed making a decision on others, including the creation of a new body - NHS: Medical Education England (NHS: MEE) - which would oversee medical training.
Dr Hamish Meldrum, Chairman of Council at the BMA, says:
"The government's acceptance of the need for major improvements in medical training as recommended by Sir John Tooke is positive, but it's only a first step. We understand why some of the changes cannot happen immediately - it was the rushed implementation of earlier reforms that caused many of these problems in the first place. However, the BMA will be scrutinising the process of implementation to ensure that vital action is not delayed, or lost in a mass of bureaucracy.
"There's a lot of reliance in the government's response on the results of the Next Stage Review of the NHS. Whilst we can accept the need for some further consultation on the implementation of NHS:MEE, we must be assured that the government will proceed with this vital development. Without this the whole confidence of the profession, only just being re-built, will be thrown away."
The response re-states the government's intention to make it harder for doctors from outside the European Economic Area to take up training posts in the UK. However, refugee doctors and overseas students graduating from UK medical schools will be exempt from these restrictions.
Dr Meldrum adds "We welcome the fact that refugee doctors and overseas students graduating from UK medical schools will be allowed to complete their postgraduate training in the NHS."
The government response also highlights the need to de-stigmatise non-training medical posts. Dr Meldrum says:
"De-stigmatising non-training grades is essential. Doctors in the staff and associate specialist grades deserve a far better deal, far better access to training and a realistic chance of career progression.
"The BMA is committed to working with others to ensure the effective and timely delivery of these necessary improvements to medical training."