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Health: Modernising Medical Careers

Volume 699: debated on Thursday 28 February 2008

My right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Health (Alan Johnson) has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.

On 16 April 2007, my right honourable friend the former Secretary of State for Health announced an independent review to examine the processes underlying modernising medical careers and to make recommendations to ensure that any necessary improvements could be implemented for 2008 and the future.

The review was chaired by Sir John Tooke, dean of the Peninsula Medical School, chair of the Council of Heads of Medical Schools and chair of the UK Health Education Advisory Committee.

Today, the department publishes its response to Sir John’s interim and final reports. The response has been placed in the Library and copies are available to honourable members from the Vote Office.

The review that he chaired was conducted independently of the four health departments and had its own independent secretariat. Its interim report was published on 8 October 2007. Following consultation with the medical profession and others involved, the final report of the review was published on 8 January this year.

Sir John and his colleagues have produced an excellent, wide-ranging review of the serious problems that arose within specialty training in 2007, the causes of those problems, and what needs to change as a result of them.

I would like to thank Sir John, his colleagues on the review, and all organisations and individuals who have given evidence to it and responded to its interim report. The Tooke review marks a significant step forward in ensuring that excellence and high achievement remain at the heart of medical education and training in this country.

Progress has already been made. For example, one of the key lessons of 2007 was the need to develop policy and process in consultation with the medical profession, the NHS and others involved. That is why we have established the MMC programme board. Over half the board’s members are drawn from the medical profession. I have accepted all the programme board’s recommendations. The complexity of this area of policy means that there are 47 separate sets of recommendations to consider within Sir John’s interim and final reports.

While not all of them are the direct responsibility of the department, we accept the overwhelming majority of Sir John’s recommendations. For example, we accept Sir John’s recommendation that the Postgraduate Medical Education and Training Board (PMETB) and the General Medical Council (GMC) should merge to establish a single organisation for standards in medical education and training.

A small number of Sir John’s recommendations have implications that we need to consider very carefully. As Sir John’s report itself makes clear, the reform of postgraduate medical training should proceed in an evidence-based way, in which structures of governance and accountability are made clear, and in which training is carefully dovetailed with the needs of patients and other policy considerations.

My noble friend Lord Darzi of Denham is currently leading a next-stage review of the National Health Service. Workforce planning, education and the role of the doctor are crucial parts of my noble friend’s review. One of Sir John’s most far-reaching recommendations—the establishment of a new organisation to oversee postgraduate medical education and training in England—will therefore need to be carefully considered alongside this work.