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Parents in surgery

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In March 2021, the Kennedy Review made a series of 16 recommendations designed to deliver ambitious changes and make a commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion within our College and the wider surgical profession. Among the findings, the report identified that the experience of parents in surgery, at all career stages, is challenging and stressful. A key objective of the recommendations was to deliver a flagship Parents in Surgery project to help current and prospective surgeons balance parenthood and a surgical career.

'I felt life was a constant juggling act with a very important person in the middle of all this and dropping a ball was not ever an option.'
Andrew Busuttil - Vascular Surgery Registrar

As part of our initial work toward this recommendation, we’ve spent the past six months conducting explorative research to better understand the challenges faced by parents and those who are intending to be parents in surgery. This new report represents an honest reflection of the research and evidence we have collected to date. Fundamentally, the report addresses the flexibility and sustainability of the workforce, including recruitment, retention and, ultimately, the training and career progression of those who take time out of their career for parental leave.

'Compared to the experiences of all other parents we knew, our experience seemed to be at the top end of how difficult a child could be, which was alienating and hard to manage. It felt like I would have to quit surgery to save my family.'

Over the next six months, we will facilitate opportunities to engage in conversation around the Parents in Surgery report and its findings.

PinS report
PinS report
Download the full report (pdf)
PinS report


We have identified a series of ways in which RCS England may mitigate the challenges faced by parents in surgery. These actions and recommendations are briefly outlined below and are grouped based on their potential impact on parents in surgery and the influence that the College has in being able to effect this change. Please read the full report for the complete recommendations and actions.

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High impact, high influence: Action first and resource directly

  1. Develop a network of support and build a community to enable individuals to share experiences and lean on supportive colleagues and peers.
  2. Develop and signpost resources that support individuals through the stages of planning a family and taking parental leave.
  3. We have commissioned the Nuffield Trust to conduct an independent review of the impact of parental or caring responsibilities on pursuing a career in surgery. Please complete this short survey to make your voice heard in this impact study.
High impact, high influence: Action first and resource directly
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High impact, low influence: Work with those who have influence
  1. Co-facilitate a workshop with Heads of Schools of Surgery, Postgraduate Deans and NHSE to raise the issues and barriers that have been brought to light in this report
  2. Use our influence to advocate for representation within bodies responsible for the design and the delivery of surgical training
  3. Develop supportive networks across the regions, developing clinical managers and providing and drawing together resources both for individuals and for their managers and teams.
High impact, low influence: Work with those who have influence
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Low impact, high influence: Work to increase impact for parents
  1. Develop a workforce strategy to understand the challenges faced at different points in the surgical career and by different groups.
  2. Work with NHSE, BMA, NHS Employers and other external partners to update and provide meaningful job planning guidance.
Low impact, high influence: Work to increase impact for parents
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Low impact, low influence: Recommendations for others
  1. Recommend that trusts review their staff facilities and working conditions including providing private spaces to be used for feeding, expressing, injecting, alongside appropriate space to store milk or medicines.
  2. Recommend ensuring childcare options are clearly signposted and fit for the workforce’s service hours
Low impact, low influence: Recommendations for others
We would like to thank all the individuals who contributed to the findings of this report; the support and conversations that this work has evoked have been extraordinary.

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