Hundreds of junior doctors have job offers revoked after computer error

Some medics had put down deposits on new homes or made plans to move their families in order to take up new positions, and now face uncertain futures

Josh Gabbatiss
Science Correspondent
Sunday 06 May 2018 19:19
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An error in transferring data from one computer program to another was blamed for a failing in the junior doctor recruitment process
An error in transferring data from one computer program to another was blamed for a failing in the junior doctor recruitment process

An administrative error has left hundreds of junior doctors unsure about their futures as their hospital job offers are rescinded.

The British Medical Association (BMA) said it was “appalled” to discover the error in the recruitment process, adding that it had caused “extreme anxiety” for trainees.

As a result of the blunder, junior doctors entering their third year of specialist training could now lose positions they have been offered.

Many have already made plans to start their new jobs in only a few months’ time.

The Royal College of Physicians (RCP) described the situation as “dreadful”, but said it would have to rerun the whole offers process.

Those affected had been offered jobs in 24 different fields through ST3 Recruitment, a nationally coordinated system for recruiting doctors.

But last week the RCP discovered some candidates had been given the wrong interview marks following an error in transferring data from one computer program to another, leading to a “significant number” of incorrect rankings.

In a letter to all those with offers, the RCP said: “We are deeply sorry that it has been necessary to rerun the ST3 offer process due to a mistake in this round of processing.

“We have taken this approach to be fair to all candidates which can only be achieved with the real scores used.”

In a joint statement, the chairman of the BMA council, Chaand Nagpaul, and the chairman of the BMA junior doctors committee, Jeeves Wijesuriya, said they had spoken to RCP president Professor Jane Dacre to “articulate the strength of feeling and extent of the impact that this has had”.

They said: “We have heard from trainees who have, after receiving these job offers, put down deposits on homes, arranged moves or whose families had adjusted their plans.”

The statement added: “We cannot express how unacceptable we find this situation and the impact – both emotionally and financially – it is having on junior doctors across the UK.”

The RCP said it would do its “utmost” to resolve the cases of those who had accepted offers and made “unretractable commitments” based on those offers.

“We set the highest standards for our work and expect to be held to them,” it said.

“We have not met them here and are truly sorry. We will learn from our mistake and make any changes necessary to fix it.”

The offers process will begin again on 14 May.

The RCP was accused by doctors of “playing with people’s futures” as more strain was piled on already overstretched junior doctors.

When he received a job offer in the West Midlands, James Savage, 28, ended talks with other potential employers.

“It’s not well understood how much we move around as junior doctors,” he told the BBC.

“You move jobs every four months, hospitals and even locations every year. So these contracts were an offer of stability for the first time.

“Our morale is already extremely low. This isn’t going to help things.”

Additional reporting by PA

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