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Open Access Research article

Changes in caseload and the potential impact on surgical training: a retrospective review of one hospital's experience

Iain Varley*, James Keir and Phillip Fagg

Author Affiliations

Doncaster & Bassetlaw Foundation Hospitals NHS Trust, Doncaster Royal Infirmary, Armthorpe Road, Doncaster, DN2 5LT

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BMC Medical Education 2006, 6:6  doi:10.1186/1472-6920-6-6

Published: 18 January 2006



Recent reforms to the training grades have provoked debate about both quality and quantity of training. The bulk of previous research into this area has been qualitative, and little is known about the quantity of training opportunities. This study aimed to determine if the number of elective operations available to trainees was stable.


The number of elective procedures carried out in each surgical specialty (General & Vascular Surgery, Urology, Orthopaedics, ENT) in a large district general hospital was analysed in 6 month periods and adjusted for the number of basic surgical trainees in each specialty. In order to allow comparison between specialties, results for each 6 month period were calculated as a percentage of those for the first period.


The number of elective operations available per trainee fell in 3 of the 4 specialties, with a rise in Orthopaedics. Overall, the number of operations available to each trainee was 56% of that less than a decade ago.


The number of operations available in a conventional hospital setting is decreasing. Introduction of the Modernising Medical Careers reforms must take account of this if they are to succeed in improving the quality of surgical training.