Surgery is one of the most important treatments offered by the NHS in secondary care within the UK. Surgical staff and the resources they need to practice account for a substantial proportion of the NHS activity and front-line care for patients. With continuing innovation an increasing number of medical conditions are being remedied or managed by surgery.
Surgeons and their workload
- There are 19,116 surgeons currently practicing in England – of which 7,537 are consultants, 8,827 trainees and 2,752 in specialist or non-training grades [i]. In Wales there are approximately 1,484 surgeons including 466 consultants.[ii]
- There are 1.43 consultant surgeons per 10,000 head of population in England. This figure is not evenly spread across the surgical specialties and some specialties are currently short of their target workforce – for example, paediatric surgery, ENT and neurosurgery [iii].
- The average surgeon takes 11-12 years of further training after medical school to reach consultant level in his chosen specialty. Gaining the practical craft skills needed means a close working relationship between trainees and consultants – there is currently an average 1.2:1 ratio of later stage surgical trainees to consultant. This varies across the specialties.
Surgical procedures in the NHS
- Most people will have surgery at some point in their life. Combined, there are 4.6 million hospital admissions that lead to surgical care every year in England alone. [iv].
- There are over 174 NHS Hospital Trusts offering surgery across England. There are approximately 3,017 operating theatres in England [v].
- The total expenditure on surgery by the NHS is difficult to quantify but based on projections from Scottish operating theatre costs [vi], we estimate that the total operation theatre costs in England amounts to approximately £4.5 billion – 4.3% of the total NHS budget.