BMA says doctor training threatened

April 12, 2002

Proposed changes to postgraduate medical education could jeopardise the training of senior doctors, say medical academics and doctors' leaders.

In response to a Department of Health consultation on a new Medical Education Standards Board, the British Medical Association said: "The emphasis on meeting National Health Service needs in parallel with training requirements could potentially compromise the ability to effectively train our future doctors."

The board is being set up to better coordinate postgraduate medical education and make it more responsive to the NHS. It would replace the Specialist Training Authority of the Medical Royal Colleges and the Joint Committee on Postgraduate Training for General Practice. Royal colleges would provide many of the members of the MESB's committees.

The consultation document, published in December, was critical of current arrangements. It noted that although decisions about postgraduate medical education had a big impact on the NHS, there was little scope for NHS or patient input.

In its response, the Council of Heads of Medical School backed the move to a single body but said there must be a clear division of responsibilities between the board and the General Medical Council. The GMC's education committee must retain statutory responsibility for coordinating all stages of medical education, it said.

The Royal College of Physicians supported a uniform approach and more NHS and lay involvement. But it added: "The consultation document gives scant credit to the many changes and improvements in training that have occurred already, largely as a result of the efforts of the medical royal colleges. There is particular attention in the college to accountability and transparency as well as consultation with the NHS."

All three bodies said the board must be accountable to Parliament, not to the secretary of state as proposed in the consultation. Michael Powell, executive secretary of the CHMS, said: "We don't want the secretary of state bringing in changes due to short-term political pressures."

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