Up to 1,500 junior doctors offered posts as registrars have had their job offers withdrawn after a mistake was found in the recruitment process that has been branded a “shambles”.
The Royal College of Physicians (RCP) said it would need to re-run the offers process as it blame human error for the “dreadful situation”.
Some junior medics now face losing the positions they had originally been offered, and many had already made plans, secured housing and uprooted their their families before starting the positions in a few months’ time.
The British Medical Association (BMA) union said it was “appalled” to discover the blunder, and that it had caused “extreme anxiety” for trainees.
Those affected had been offered jobs in 24 different fields through ST3 Recruitment, a nationally co-ordinated 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.
Among the junior doctors affected is Ben White, who had accepted the offer of a training job in the south of England, who said he felt “cheated and let down”.
The 35-year-old, who has been a qualified doctor since 2009, received a text message and email informing him the offer had been withdrawn due to “human error”.
He was told the re-run might change the job he is offered.
“Now it’s a nervous wait for the re-offer process, he told HuffPost UK.
He added: “It’s a crucial time in a doctor’s career, with a gruelling process to get to this point.
“The least we can expect from our Royal College in national applications is a basic level of competence to get this right first time.
“It feels particularly disappointing because this could and should have been avoided if basic quality checks had been in place.”
Rupert Simpson, 29, told the BBC he was in “total limbo” after the withdrawal of his job offer to work in cardiology in London.
“I’m getting married next month, and my fiancée lives and works in London - it would be very difficult for us if I don’t receive another offer in London,” he said.
“For years I’ve been moving from contract to contract as a junior doctor, so the idea of having a stable job for five years was amazing.
“It’s hugely annoying and upsetting to have the carpet swept out from under us after someone made a spreadsheet error.”
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 May 14.