Medical students applying for their first jobs should be clear about what they are signing up to, the BMA says today (Saturday 5 June), as new research reveals a continuing lack of clarity about reforms to doctors' training.
Under the government's 'Modernising Medical Careers' initiative, medical graduates will enter a two year "foundation programme", rather than a one year house officer job. However, new BMA research has shown that there is still no central information at all about the new posts, even though medical students in pilot areas are already being expected to apply for them.
This week, the BMA sent guidance to all its medical student members advising them to make sure that when they sign up to foundation programmes they know exactly what the structure of their training will be, what skills they will be expected to develop, and whether their programme will have educational approval.
The guidance comes as the BMA publishes research revealing the patchy nature of information on the changes. In January, the BMA contacted all of England's postgraduate deaneries ? the bodies that oversee doctors' training ? to find out whether they were piloting, or planning to pilot, foundation programmes. Responses have so far been received from 17 pilots, although some estimates suggest that several hundred schemes are either planned or already up and running. Details such as the way training will be assessed and quality-assured vary widely.
Mr Simon Eccles, chairman of the BMA's Junior Doctors Committee, said: "No one should be made to apply for a job which is so ill-defined that they don't know what they'll be doing, where they'll be doing it, what skills they'll need, whether it will enhance or delay their career, or how much they'll be paid. Training must be improved but the reforms should not be so rushed that trainees, and ultimately their patients, suffer."
In a blueprint document also published today, the BMA's Medical Students Committee calls for the roll-out of foundation programmes to be delayed until data from the pilots can be analysed, and a national model for foundation programmes can be drawn up. It welcomes the principles underlying 'Modernising Medical Careers', but says that the benefits of the changes could be lost because of the lack of detail.