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Last Updated: Thursday, 28 October, 2004, 09:01 GMT 10:01 UK
Surgical training 'cut by half'
Image of surgeons
Training time will be halved
Junior doctors who want to become a surgeon will be fast-tracked through the NHS under a new curriculum.

Consultants of the future could be in their early 30s thanks to a halving of the current minimum 12 years that it takes to train after medical school.

The Royal College of Surgeons said its scheme, to be introduced in 2007, would recognise excellence rather than reward time-serving.

It denied that the move, hoped to boost staff numbers, was a 'dumbing down'.

Halved

Mr Hugh Phillips, president of the college said: "Not every surgeon needs to be trained to be a super-specialist doing the most complex surgery in their chosen field.

With recent legal cuts in junior doctors' hours, the NHS and the Royal Colleges need to make sure that the best use is made of the limited training time available.
Simon Eccles of the British Medical Association

"This is not a dumbing down. At present, arrangements for training surgeons are unsatisfactory and we need to make surgical training very much more effective."

Currently, doctors who have graduated from medical schools spend one year as a house officer and then a minimum of two years as a senior house officer (SHO).

In practice, the average SHO takes five-and-a-half years to reach the next stage in the surgical career, a specialist registrar job, and only 50% of applicants are successful.

Mr Phillips said this was too long and meant many talented surgeons-in-training were stuck at the SHO grade.

"Not only is it wasteful of human resources, but it makes for an insecure and difficult time at a crucial stage in the surgeon's career," he said.

On graduation from medical school, the trainee will in the future undertake a two-year foundation programme after which he or she will enter specialist training.

The college anticipates it would take most young surgeons only six years to be trained to nationally agreed standards across nine surgical specialties.

THE NINE SPECIALTIES SURGEONS WOULD TRAIN IN
General surgery
Cardiothoracic surgery
Neurosurgery
Otolaryngology
Paediatric surgery
Plastic surgery
Trauma and orthopaedic surgery
Urology
Oral and maxillofacial surgery

It has placed a maximum of eight years on the training time.

Restrictions in doctors' working hours as a consequence of the European Working Time Directive means surgical training is seriously compromised, according to the college.

Mr Phillip said: "There is still a serious shortfall in the number of consultant surgeons in the UK and yet we need these hard-pressed consultants to train their future colleagues and successors.

"The new scheme will recognise excellence rather than reward time-serving."

A spokesman from the Department of Health said: "We are working with the Royal College of Surgeons to modernise medical training.

"The purpose is to make it more focused and contemporary.

"Patient safety will be at the heart of any changes we make to this training."

Mr Simon Eccles, chair of the British Medical Association's Junior Doctors Committee, said: "Seven years may be enough time for a particularly talented doctor to qualify as a consultant surgeon, but only if the quality of their training is exceptionally high.

"With recent legal cuts in junior doctors' hours, the NHS and the Royal Colleges need to make sure that the best use is made of the limited training time available.

"What matters most is that we produce doctors capable of delivering the highest possible standards of care to patients."


FROM OTHER NEWS SITES:
Telegraph Junior doctors' surgical training to be cut by half - 44 hrs ago
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SEE ALSO:
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26 Oct 04  |  Scotland


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