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Qualifications of a Surgeon

How can I find out if my surgeon is properly qualified?

The General Medical Council (GMC) holds the central registers of doctors’ qualifications. The medical register shows who is properly qualified to practise medicine. The specialist register shows doctors who have completed specialist training, including surgical training. Doctors must be included in this to hold consultant posts in the NHS.

To contact the GMC, telephone 0161 923 6602. You may also like to visit the GMC website, you can also search the Medical Register online.

The GMC is also responsible for dealing with disciplinary matters concerning surgeons. However, attempts should be made to deal with complaints locally first and there is an established complaints procedure which should be followed.

What are the usual qualifications for a surgeon?

All surgeons must first qualify as doctors, so they will have a basic medical degree which includes the principles of medicine and surgery. The title of this degree varies according to the university attended. Examples are MB or BM (Bachelor of Medicine) and BChir, ChB or BS (Bachelor of Surgery).

Surgeons then go on to do several years of further training in surgical specialties. During this time they acquire a specific surgical qualification, such as MRCS (Membership of The Royal College of Surgeons) or, previously, FRCS (Fellowship of The Royal College of Surgeons).

Those who wish to practise as consultants must also obtain the Certificate of Completion of Specialist Training (CCST). The letters after a surgeon’s name depend on the college granting the qualification, for example FRCS or FRCS(Eng) indicates a fellow of the Royal College of Surgeons of England; FRCS(Ed), FRCS(Glasg) or FRCSI indicate a fellow of the Royal College of Surgeons of EdinburghGlasgow or Ireland. Some surgeons obtain further degrees and diplomas in research or in specialist areas such as orthopaedics or ophthalmology.

Some surgeons only use the highest of their qualifications (eg FRCS) in their correspondence or on their nameplates, rather than listing all the lesser degrees as well.

Overseas-trained surgeons may have different letters after their name depending on the institutions in which they qualified. Before working as a surgeon in the UK, they must register with the General Medical Council and satisfy the UK authorities that their qualifications and experience are appropriate for the work they intend to undertake.

If you would like to know your surgeon’s qualifications, do not be afraid to ask. You can also find out their details through the General Medical Council. As explained in who’s who in surgery, the consultant leads and supervises a team of surgeons who are all qualified doctors but with different levels of training and expertise.

Why are surgeons in the UK called Mr/Miss/Ms/Mrs, rather than Dr?

In most other parts of the world all medical practitioners, physicians and surgeons alike, are referred to as Dr while in the UK surgeons are usually referred to as Mr/Miss/Ms/Mrs. This is because, from the Middle Ages physicians had to embark on formal university training to gain possession of a degree in medicine before they could enter practice. The possession of this degree, a doctorate, entitled them to the title of ‘Doctor of Medicine’ or Doctor.

The training of surgeons until the mid-19th century was different. They did not have to go to university to gain a degree; instead they usually served as an apprentice to a surgeon. Afterwards they took an examination. In London, after 1745, this was conducted by the Surgeons' Company and after 1800 by The Royal College of Surgeons. If successful they were awarded a diploma, not a degree, therefore they were unable to call themselves 'Doctor', and stayed instead with the title 'Mr'.

Outside London and in the largest cities, the surgeon served as an apprentice like many other tradesmen, but did not necessarily take any examination. Today all medical practitioners, whether physicians or surgeons have to undertake training at medical school to obtain a qualifying degree. Thereafter a further period of postgraduate study and training through junior posts is required before full consultant surgeon status is achieved. Thus the tradition of a surgeon being referred to as Mr/Miss/Ms/Mrs has continued, meaning that in effect a person starts as Mr/Miss/Ms/Mrs, becomes a Dr and then goes back to being a Mr/Miss/Ms/Mrs again!

Where can I find information about becoming a surgeon?

The Royal College of Surgeons has a dedicated website for those interested in a career in surgery.

What do the letters after a surgeon's name mean?

FRCS

Fellow of the Royal College of Surgeons of England. The letters FRCS after a surgeon's name mean that the surgeon's education and training, professional qualifications, and surgical competence have passed a rigorous evaluation, and have been found to be consistent with the high standards established and demanded by the College, of which the surgeon is a current Fellow.

MRCS

Member of the Royal College of Surgeons of England. The letters MRCS indicate a surgeon in training who has achieved a level of generic surgical competencies that enable them to successfully undertake specialist training, and they are current Members of the College.

FDSRCS

Fellow in Dental Surgery of the Royal College of Surgeons of England. The letters FDSRCS after a dental specialist's name mean that the specialist's education and training, professional qualifications, and competence have passed a rigorous evaluation, and have been found to be consistent with the high standards established and demanded by the College, of which the specialist is a current Fellow.

MFDS (RCS Eng)

Member of the Faculty of Dental Surgery of the Royal College of Surgeons of England. The letters MFDS indicate a specialist in training who has achieved a level of generic specialist competencies that enable them to successfully undertake specialist training, and they are current members of the College.

MJDF (RCS Eng)

Member of the Joint Dental Faculties at the Royal College of Surgeons of England. MJDF is a marker of completion of foundation training in dentistry, preparing the practitioner for a career as a generalist or a specialist, and giving joint membership of the two dental Faculties of and at the College.

MORTH

Membership in Orthodontics.

MRD

Membership in Restorative Dentistry.

MPAEDDENT

Membership in Paediatric Dentistry.

MSURGDENT

Membership in Surgical Dentistry.

Honorary Fellowship

An honorary fellowship is an award by the Council of the College for those who are internationally distinguished in surgery or have made huge contributions to the College.

Fellowship by Election

Fellowship by Election is an award by the Council of the College for those who are medically or dentally qualified in recognition of outstanding professional service to the College or national distinction in surgery.

                                           

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