Juniors vote to save deaneries

JUNIOR doctors have voted to fight plans to abolish deaneries – and will consider strike action to safeguard pay.

Trainees made their views clear at the BMA’s Junior Doctors Conference where motions were passed opposing plans to replace deaneries with local skills networks. They also raised the prospect of industrial action in a bid to protect pay and pensions from proposed government cuts.

Junior Doctors Committee co-chair Shree Datta, criticised the government’s white paper Developing the Healthcare Workforce which plans to overhaul medical education and training. She said the reforms could threaten patient care as much as anything in the Health and Social Care Bill.

She warned against repeating the mistakes made in 2007 when the Medical Training Application Service (MTAS) caused chaos for doctors in training.

She said: “You don’t have to go back very far in history to find out what happens when governments try to rush through changes to medical training. I am sure many of you remember MTAS. Are we really expected to believe that, with an entirely new structure in place, the recruitment process will run smoothly in a year’s time?

“These [reforms] do as much to threaten the future provision of high quality patient care as anything in the Health Bill itself. They propose to invent a new system to commission, deliver, and quality-manage training through large-scale, untested, changes to the current system.”

She called on the government to slow down and to only make changes that are necessary and fully tested. She urged ministers to “build on the strengths of deaneries” instead of replacing them and to take a UK-wide approach to NHS workforce planning.

In a separate survey of more than 1000 members of the Royal College of Psychiatrists, 90 per cent said they were against the abolition of deaneries. A further 86 per cent agreed with the college’s position on education and training which recommends careful modelling, piloting and consultation before any major changes are made.

The BMA and Royal College of Physicians (RCP) have both voiced their support for keeping deaneries in their responses to the government’s listening exercise on the NHS reforms. The organisations are also in favour of maintaining national and regional oversight for training and education.

In a letter to the Future Forum – which is leading the exercise – the BMA’s Junior Doctors Committee suggests that despite plans to abolish strategic health authorities, deaneries should be maintained and housed within higher education institutions, turned into individual special health authorities or placed under the auspices of Health Education.

The RCP recommends that the government postpone any restructuring of education and training for two years instead of pressing ahead with changes in April 2012.

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