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Talented North East team win prestigious ‘Are you cut out for it?’ surgical competition

04 Mar 2019

Trainee surgeons Ellen Ross and Leo Brown are celebrating after winning a highly prestigious UK-wide surgical skills competition. The talented duo, who were representing the North East School of Surgery, walked away with the title of 'Best Core Surgical Trainees in the UK', along with a prize of £1,500 to share, after taking part in the Royal College of Surgeons’ competition.

Performing surgery is highly-pressured under any circumstances, but when you’re competing against some of the best trainee surgeons in the UK and up against the clock, you need steady nerves - and steady hands. 

As befits a competition helping to train surgeons for the NHS, the final was about teamwork as well as individual excellence. Ellen and Leo competed against Christian Verhoef and Daniel Doherty from the North West region in the “Grand Final” on Saturday 2nd March 2019, at the Royal College of Surgeons in London. While Ellen and Leo won £1,500 for being part of a great partnership, Christian and Daniel, the two runners-up, shared £500.

Twelve heats were held across England and Wales, in which participants competed in pairs across a range of fields, including skin and laparoscopic tasks. The variety of time-pressured procedures allowed the examiners to assess the quality of surgical skills and knowledge of both team members, with marks allocated for the assistant as well as the primary operator. 

The London-based final saw the winners from each region compete against each other for the title.  It provided a similar set-up with the addition of a 'tie-break' activity, designed to differentiate between the two top-scoring best pairs on the day whilst injecting a little more intensity at the final hurdle.  Competitors used realistic models to showcase their skills.

As overall winners of this, the sixth national final since the competition started, Ellen and Leo also won the Louis Solomon Knights Award for Surgical Skills – and a fantastic addition to their portfolios. The Honourable Society of the Knights of the Round Table will also invite the two winners to attend the Knights’ Diplomatic Dinner at the House of Lords.  

Ellen Ross, who works at Northumbria Specialist Emergency Care Hospital, said: “Getting up at 5am was worth it.  I am really excited about going for dinner at the House of Lords - that will be ridiculous. I'll have to find something to wear - not trackie bottoms.”

Leo Brown, who works at University Hospital North Tees, said:  “The tasks were challenging but fun. We absolutely did not think we would win. It's great to have a chance to represent the North East.

Notes to editors

1. “Are you cut out for it?” was originally set up by Kathryn Ford and Lilli Cooper - two Core Surgical Trainees, in November 2012, in collaboration with the Royal College of Surgeons. They are now specialty trainees in paediatric and plastic surgery respectively. The competition is free to enter and is open to core trainees commencing their CT2 year in the 15 regions across the UK. Surgeons of all career grades can volunteer to organise the regional heats between October and December.

2. The Honourable Society of the Knights of the Round Table generously provided the prize money for the winners, while Limbs & Things provided simulation materials for the regional heats and final. 

3. Karl Storz kindly provided laparoscopic trainers and surgical instruments for the competition.

4. The Royal College of Surgeons of England is a professional membership organisation and registered charity, which exists to advance surgical standards and improve patient care.  It provides a range of career support to budding surgeons – and one of its strategic priorities is to ‘attract, educate, develop and support high-quality surgeons’. More information on its careers support can be found at

5. For more information, please contact the RCS Press Office on: 020 7869 6052/6047; or email:


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