Medical training board selection sparks fears of bias

September 12, 2003

The appointments procedure for the Postgraduate Medical Education and Training Board has reignited fears that the board will not be sufficiently independent of government.

Peter Hutton, chair of the Academy of Medical Royal Colleges, which coordinates the work of medical royal colleges and faculties, has written to commissioner for public appointments Dame Rennie Fritchie asking for a review of "the procedures used by the National Health Service Appointments Commission".

The appointments process for the new board was well advanced when candidates received a letter from the commission late in July. It said that as a result of revised instructions from the Department of Health, the commission was changing the way it handled the recruitment exercise.

"It is not good practice to change criteria or a procedure halfway through a selection process," Professor Hutton said.

A DoH spokesperson said: "The initial sifting process by the NHS Appointments Commission led to a risk that too few academy nominees were selected for interview, which might have meant that the requirements of the legislation, namely to appoint at least six members from a list by the academy, would be difficult to fulfil. It was therefore decided that all the academy nominees should be interviewed by the NHSAC.

"Traditionally, postgraduate medical education has been the preserve of the postgraduate deaneries (who organise training positions) and the royal colleges (which ensure standards).

"Universities have been heavily represented through deaneries and colleges - many of whom are headed by clinical academics," the spokesperson said.

Non-medic Clive Morton, chair of Peterborough Hospitals NHS Trust and associate professor at Middlesex University, was appointed chair of the PMETB earlier this year.

• The NHS University has advertised for higher education partners to help it develop and pilot courses for health and social care.

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