Education And Debate

Surgical training: an objective assessment of recent changes for a single health board

BMJ 1997; 314 doi: (Published 22 March 1997) Cite this as: BMJ 1997;314:891
  1. T J Crofts, consultant surgeona,
  2. J M T Griffiths, consultant surgeona,
  3. S Sharma, specialty registrara,
  4. J Wygrala, surgical senior house officera,
  5. R J Aitken, consultant surgeona
  1. a Eastern General Hospital Edinburgh EH6 7LN
  1. Correspondence to: Mr Crofts
  • Accepted 31 December 1996


The reduction in doctors' hours and the introduction of specialist training have reduced general surgical training by 60%. This study assessed the implications for a single health board. A questionnaire listing 13 representative operations was sent to 44 trainees and 52 trainers to determine the number of operations a trainee should perform. The total number of operations required for training was compared against the total actually performed across the health board. Operating times for five representative operations were audited prospectively. Trainers and trainees recommended a similar and conservative number of operations. The total number of operations available for training (4913) was 38% less than the number recommended (7946). Trainees required 50-75% more operating time than consultants. To increase the proportion of operations undertaken by trainees from the current 30% to 70% would require an extra 270 theatre days (or £1.3m) yearly. The minimum number of operations required for training must be defined and the proportion of supervised operations undertaken by trainees substantially increased. Service and financial implications will have to be addressed. Action is needed urgently, as the first trainees will become consultants in less than five years.


  • Funding None.

  • Conflict of interest None.

  • Accepted 31 December 1996
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