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Surgical training to enter the independent sector

08 Sep 2020

The COVID-19 pandemic has significantly affected the NHS – the way we work, the way we treat and the way in which we are trained. Surgical training, which is built on a gradual increase of exposure to operations, has been greatly impacted by coronavirus. As more and more elective surgery cases are postponed, the opportunities for learning and hands-on experience continue to decline.

The issue of surgical training was perfectly encapsulated by Surgical Director, Jon Lund, in our September Trainee’s Bulletin – ‘No training today, no surgeons tomorrow’. This sentiment is also echoed by President Neil Mortensen, who says ‘the unintended casualty of the pandemic has been your training in the specialty you love’.

Surgical training has existed in our national health service for more than 70 years, but now it will take on a different shape. Today NHS England announced an agreement to allow surgeons in training access to independent hospital operating lists, and are accompanying their announcement with guidance for trainees. This contract is welcomed by the Royal College of Surgeons of England and we have signed a joint statement, along with the three other surgical royal colleges, confirming our support.


The joint statement

We are delighted with this announcement of an agreement to allow surgeons in training access to independent hospital operating lists. Our hard-working surgeons of the future will be offered teaching and learning opportunities in the private sector, where some NHS-funded elective surgery will take place due to the exceptional circumstances of the Covid 19 pandemic. Elective surgery came to a near standstill during the height of the crisis, and is slowly recovering. We hope that all independent providers and Heads of Schools of Surgery will continue to work together to support the next generation of surgeons. We would urge the devolved administrations in Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland to honour this initiative. We hope a similar undertaking for outsourced contracts can be agreed in Ireland.


  • Professor S Michael Griffin
    President, RCS Edinburgh
  • Professor Neil Mortensen
    President, RCS England
  • Professor Jackie Taylor
    President, RCPS Glasgow
  • Professor  P Ronan O’Connell 
    President, RCS Ireland

Read this statement as a PDF

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