Supplementary memorandum by the Department
of Health (MMC 01A)
Thank you for the opportunity to give evidence
to your enquiry.In response to a few of your questions we offered
to give you more detail in writing.
The Invitation to Tender Documents for the MTAS
IT system refers to multiple rounds of 10,000 leading to a capacity
of 30,000 applicant users.The capacity ceiling was reviewed and
increased to 40,000 in December 2006 (19 Dec). Methods Consulting
was the supplier for this work.
At the time we procured the MTAS service, the
expectation was that recruitment to ST1, ST2 and ST3 would be
carried out in separate rounds, and that a maximum of 15,000 applications
would be received in each of these rounds, for a maximum of about
10,000 posts. The MTAS supplier was consulted when the decision
was made at a later date to combine the recruitment rounds.
There is a perception that problems arose with
MTAS related to the capacity of the IT system: in fact there was
sufficient capacity in the system. As we acknowledged in our evidence,
the system did run slowly for a period of 11 hours and during
this time some applicants had difficulty accessing the system.
The reason the system ran slowly was not due to poor capacity
planning but rather the way the load was distributed across the
various computer servers. This was a technical problem that became
apparent only when the system was fully loaded. The issue was
fixed by Friday 2 February. We extended the deadline from 4 February
to 5 February in mitigation. We very much regret the frustrations
this created for some applicants, but by the deadline over 34,000
applicants had completed their applications and only 68 applicants
appealed to be allowed a late entry application. Of these, 26
had substantial reasons to permit a late entry, mostly because
of individual, personal circumstances.
Relevant excerpts from the tender documents
are attached at Annex A.
There were several references in our oral evidence
to WPP and 6,000 applicants. To clarify and correct any misunderstanding
that may have resulted, the reference to 6,000+ applicants in
the Tooke Report (p142) refers to the tender for designing the
application form and selection procedure not the IT system MTAS.
The reference to 6,000+ refers to the initial tender assumption
relating to ST1, that there would be approximately 6,000 posts
available at ST1.This tender for the selection procedure was won
by Work Psychology Partnership.
MTAS contract with Methods
When the security breaches occurred the contractor
was required to undertake immediate security testing and to upgrade
the security of the system to a much higher level than is generally
required for an on-line recruitment service. This work was completed
by the contractor at their own expense.
The contractor also undertook a number of additional,
non-security related activities at their own cost. The following
are some of the actions undertaken:
While the system was blocked, as
instructed by the Department, the contractor undertook additional
work to ensure that there was minimum disruption to the service
and that deaneries were supported.
The contractor also produced additional
reports and substantial documentation so that all deaneries could
see which applicants were scheduled to attend interview events.
Once deanery access was permitted
by the Department, the contractor set up a process so that deanery
access was only available to trusted IP addresses that were associated
to a deanery. A manual process was created that allowed the Department
to approve which deanery users were authorised to use the system
and to approve the users' access rights.
The Department is not considering terminating
the contract while there is an ongoing need for this service.
The supplier has cooperated fully with us in making appropriate
changes to the security arrangements (at their own expense) to
minimise the likelihood of further security incidents. The ongoing
need for the service includes the fact that the system is currently
in use for applications to the 2008 Foundation Programme. Although
the system will not be used for recruitment in 2008 to Specialty
Training, its adaptation is an option for use in 2009 for recruitment
to Specialty Training.
The Department wrote in its evidence that one
of the main issues this year was the high volume of applicants.
High competition ratios, linked with four choices for applicants,
meant that many would not get interviews in the first round. We
said all along that Round 2 would be substantial. We also repeatedly
warned that there would be high competition and that doctors should
not take it for granted that they would get the interviews and
offers they wanted, particularly in the popular specialties and
As early as 4 September 2006 we indicated there
would be two rounds.(www.mmc.nhs.uk)
In February 2006 an article was written on the
MMC website (published in June in BMJ Careers http://careerfocus.bmj.com/cgi/content/full/332/7553/221
) by Shelley Heard which spelled out that competition would be
high for some specialties.
On 18 December the results of a survey indicating
applicants' interest in various specialties was published. This
should have helped applicants see that some specialties would
have had higher competition rates than others.
It was made clear on numerous occasions and
by different stakeholders that applicants should be aware they
may not get their first choice specialty. For example a newsletter
on 6 January advised:
. . . you should keep in mind that you may not
get your first choice of specialty or location and that it might
not be in a run-through programme. I'd definitely advise that
you have a plan b and even a plan c when you apply.
In general terms MTAS communications were part
of the wider MMC communications plan which involved Deaneries,
NHS Employers and national stakeholders as well as direct MMC
communication with applicants through MMC and MTAS websites.
There was a programme of co-ordinated MMC (Foundation,
Specialty, recruitment proposals) and MTAS roadshows undertaken
with deaneries between May and October 2006 at which the recruitment
and selection processes were discussed and critical messages such
as competition were considered.
All English deaneries were visited by the MMC
team with the exception of Eastern Deanery, who instead, liaised
with Sarah Thomas, Lead postgraduate Dean over the changes.
The deaneries were asked to invite to these
roadshows stakeholders who they considered had a key role to play
in implementing and cascading messages around recruitment and
selection changes for specialty recruitment.
Typically, these roadshows were attended by
representatives covering clinical and academic leads for specialities,
recruitment personnel from Trusts and deaneries, some potential
applicants (Foundation and Specialty), clinical tutors and medical
Overall, there were approximately 550-600 people
briefed directly through these roadshows specifically to cascade
the information and advice to potential applicants and their managers.
As part of the roadshow programme, Deaneries
were asked to nominate a key person in the deanery to undertake
the role of "transition manager" who would have responsibility
for co-ordinating local activity, including appropriate communications
messages in their "patch".
These roadshows covered the fact that there
would be two Rounds.
One of the difficulties in preparing applicants
for the new system was the lack of any national data from the
pre-MMC recruitment process. As soon as we knew the number of
applicants and the competition ratios this was provided (in March).
We accept that despite these efforts not all
applicants were as aware of some critical factors about the recruitment
as would have been desired. However, direct feedback from applicants
during discussions about the revised arrangements for Round 1
indicated a clear understanding that there would be a substantial
EXCERPT FROM MTAS ITT (WON BY METHODS CONSULTING)
The service must be able to deal with application
peaks as each recruitment round nears its closing date.
|Number of website visits||100,000 per day
|Number of candidate users||30,000
|Number of employer users||less than 2,000
|Number of applications per recruitment round
|Number of posts to be filled||10,000 per year
|Number of national recruitment rounds per year
||10 plus clearing rounds (maximum)|