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Effects of changing work patterns on general surgical training over the last decade
  1. N S Blencowe,
  2. B A Parsons,
  3. A D Hollowood
  1. Division of Surgery, Head and Neck, Bristol Royal Infirmary, University Hospitals Bristol NHS Foundation Trust, Bristol, UK
  1. Correspondence to Dr N S Blencowe, Division of Surgery, Head and Neck, University Hospitals Bristol NHS Foundation Trust, Bristol Royal Infirmary, Marlborough Street, Bristol BS2 8HW, UK; natalieblencowe{at}


Background There is concern across all medical specialties that shift patterns and reduced working hours are detrimental to training, and that craft specialties have been most affected. This study aimed to examine the effects of these changes to training on the quantity of operating performed by surgical trainees in a UK teaching hospital.

Methods This retrospective study of prospectively collected computerised theatre data examined elective and emergency general surgical operations performed over four time periods: 1996 (Calman), 2001 (New Deal), 2004 and 2009 (European Working Time Directive). Procedures were analysed according to grade of surgeon and time of day.

Results In 1996, most appendicectomies (72.2%) were performed by senior house officers (SHOs), compared with 3.8% in 2009. By 2009, SHOs did not perform any emergency procedures other than abscess drainage and appendicectomy. The proportion of emergency operating performed by specialist registrar (SpRs) has remained constant, but elective operating has reduced from 34.6% (1996) to 15.7% (2009). Supervision of both SHOs and SpRs has increased between 1996 and 2009 in both elective and emergency work.

Conclusions The proportion of operating performed by SpRs and SHOs has fallen over the last decade, coinciding with implementation of structural changes to training, the advent of minimally invasive techniques, and the drive for a consultant led health service. Trainees may therefore require increased supervision as well as protected theatre sessions to balance operative training with ward based duties. Education must be integrated into working practice in order for trainees to achieve expected competencies and ultimately produce adequately experienced consultants.

  • Adult surgery
  • education and training (see medical education and training)
  • medical education and training

Statistics from


  • NS Blencowe and BA Parsons are surgical trainees. AD Hollowood is a consultant surgeon and is the guarantor for the paper.

  • Competing interests None.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.

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