Secrecy 'damaging' review of training

A GOVERNMENT review of Britain's specialist medical training, a system condemned as unlawful by the European Commission earlier this year, is being cloaked in damaging and unnecessary secrecy, ministers have been warned.

In its first leading article on the subject, The Lancet has called for an open debate on the radical shake-up being planned for higher medical training and promotion in the wake of EC intervention.

Senior representatives of the UK medical authorities, summoned to meetings at the Department of Health over the past month, were told to keep the discussions secret by Kenneth Calman, chief medical officer, who chaired the sessions.

The meetings followed warnings from the European Commission that UK practices flouted EC directives intended to ensure that fully qualified doctors could practise anywhere in the Community. The Government has sought to play down the significance of the unlawful practices.

The editorial in The Lancet traces the present crisis back to a series of meetings in 1976, also held in secret at the DoH and involving senior representatives of the medical establishment. Fears were expressed then that EC directives could threaten the near- monopoly of UK consultants in NHS and private sectors.

'The GMC (General Medical Council) and other medical institutions in Britain face a charge of acting illegally; their instinctive reaction has been to go into a sort of secret huddle that got them into trouble in the first place,' the editorial in tomorrow's edition says.