Spreadsheet error disrupts recruitment of trainee anesthetists

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A spreadsheet error led to the disruption of the recruitment of trainee anesthetists in England and Wales in 2021, according to a report published by the Anaesthetic National Recruitment Office (ANRO).

The report found that a ranking column in the Wales Region Spreadsheet had been wrongly transferred to the Master National Spreadsheet, erroneously appearing as an interview score. This meant that all the candidates from the Wales Region did not score highly enough when all candidate scores were ranked nationally and were deemed “unappointable.”

The report also found that poor choice of technology for organization-wide decision-making was compounded by inconsistent practice, including the erratic use of Excel’s “VLOOKUP” function.

ANRO closed the application process while it investigated the issue and found that 35 candidates had been affected. However, in attempting to tell candidates about the problems with the scoring system, ANRO then found a bug in the messaging system of Oriel, the recruitment platform from vendor HiCom.

The bug meant that Oriel erroneously sent the communication to an additional 16 candidates, who were also offered jobs. ANRO decided to honor these additional offers too.

The Royal College of Anaesthetists has expressed its concerns about the lack of transparency throughout the debacle and has called for an Extraordinary General Meeting to consider whether or not it still has confidence in the leadership and senior management of ANRO.

The sources for this piece include an article in TheRegister.

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