What a fiasco the new selection procedure for specialist training posts within Modernising Medical Careers has turned out to be! The government has been forced to climb down on its original plans and is struggling to find a workable compromise half way through the process.
There has been a worrying lack of transparency. No one seems to know what is going on, even those at the heart of the process, and it all feels like an experiment with an unpredictable outcome. The number of training posts has been markedly reduced, leaving a large number of service posts, with fewer career opportunities.
The 'State' seems to know best where it wants to use its doctors and there appears no recognition of individual vocation. Juniors will be forced to embark on a particular career pathway within two years of graduating and will find it very difficult to make a sideways move later.
Many of the questions in the nationwide online application form have been obscure, the website has frequently crashed, and the full flavour of the more experienced candidates has not come across in the compulsory limited answer format. Many good candidates were not originally offered any interview on the first round and some have already decided to vote with their feet and look for medical work abroad, or take up a different career such as teaching. In particular, the 'lost tribe' of SHOs has fallen foul of the new system and many are disillusioned and disheartened.
Two practical issues particularly concern us as Christians. It will be very difficult for married couples to stay together and the system specifically discourages juniors from doing a period of medical service abroad.
How can we respond?
First, we must pray and demonstrate pastoral concern for juniors caught up in the process. We must stand alongside individuals and encourage them that in times of uncertainty God can be trusted to care and provide for us. A CMF junior said: 'The fear nearly destroyed me last year, and was fuelled by myself, my peers and the paucity of available information. I can still remember how fear blinded me to seeing that God is in control.'
West Midlands CMF held a prayer meeting. Both seniors involved in selection and juniors applying for jobs were present. Some hospital consultants, particularly those in Deanery posts, appreciated sharing their pressures.
Secondly, we must promote transparency and establish a system of selection for training jobs that is widely recognised as fair and workable. It may be costly to speak out for justice in today's political climate, but surely the prophet Micah's disturbing condemnation of God's people, who made no move against the corrupt and abusive systems of their day, is a relevant challenge to us?