‘Unsatisfactory’ government proposals mean a new junior doctors ‘medical training disaster’ is looming, warned the British Medical Association (BMA) yesterday.

Commenting on the proposals to prevent a repeat of this year’s ‘MTAS’ (Medical Training Application Service) fiasco, the BMA warned that any computer system to recruit junior doctors in future must be ‘tested to destruction’.

It added that there should be no limit on the number of applications they can make.

The BMA said in a statement: ‘The English Department of Health is currently consulting on a new system to select junior doctors for specialist training in England in 2008.

‘It has stated that demand for jobs will be higher than in 2007, with a possible ratio of three applicants to every post.

‘The BMA believes that competition for many posts will be even more intense than this.’

Responding to the consultation, the BMA highlighted ‘the fact that there was no back-up to the badly flawed national computer system that failed this year’.

It calls for any computerised selection system in future to be rigorously tested and backed up by a manual scheme.

Mr Ram Moorthy, who was elected new chairman of the BMA’s Junior Doctors Committee on Saturday, said: ‘Given the intensity of competition for posts, it’s absolutely vital that the system is fair and efficient. MTAS was neither.

‘We should be rewarding excellence in medicine, not just competence.

‘At the moment, the government is a long way from guaranteeing that the most talented doctors make it to the top.’

The BMA stressed that ‘none of the shortlisting options outlined by the government are adequate’.

It calls for all shortlisting of doctors to be carried out locally rather than nationally.

It says there should be no limits on the number of applications they can submit and strongly opposes the suggestion in the government document that they should be offered only one interview.

Moorthy added: ‘Offering doctors only one opportunity to get into training would be completely unfair.

‘It would put huge pressure on them, and risk a further waste of talent.’

The BMA is calling for smaller ‘units of application’ – a change from this year, when doctors had to apply to a large geographical area.

For example, a candidate hoping to work in London had to apply to the whole of London, Kent, Surrey, and Sussex.

The BMA response highlights the need for thorough workforce planning, including medical school intake.

It also states: ‘There should be multiple entry points to training, so that doctors who do not get a post in August can compete to enter training again.

‘The government should consider an “inverted pyramid” model where opportunities to enter long-term specialist training increase each year.

‘All doctors who were appointed to long-term specialist training this year should have their appointments honoured.

‘There should be a UK-wide co-ordinated timetable for applications and offers, and dates must be decided now.

‘New ideas for selection must be properly piloted.’