New arm for surgery training

July 6, 2001

The Royal College of Surgeons has launched its first online training package for members.

"The course will complement the basic surgical training programme," said John Masih, BST courses development coordinator at the RCS Raven Department of Education.

"We have long provided support through our Surgeons in Training Education Programme, but have now put some of the material online to produce e-Step."

Senior house officers (SHOs) who want to be surgeons have to train for two to three years. This training varies from trust to trust.

Responsibility for training lies with the postgraduate deaneries, but the RCS has a remit to support the trainees.

"As well as providing trainees with online learning materials and bulletin boards moderated by consultant surgeons, e-Step will also give trainees a forum and meeting point. It will not provide a national curriculum, but it will give trainees the opportunity to compare their training," Dr Masih said.

Mike Larvin, a consultant surgeon at Leeds General Infirmary and a tutor at the college, said: "When I was a trainee, we worked all night and weekends. The working hours directive has changed this, but has also cut the time available for training. With e-Step trainees can log on when they are on call at night, from home and even from holiday and some have to keep up to date with their training. We put a case of the week on e-Step, usually a strange and unusual case, and use images and videos to discuss it with trainees."

Postgraduate medical education is being reorganised, with the Department of Health expected to announce a consultation document on the proposed Medical Education Standards Board this month. The MESB will replace the separate bodies for general practice and hospital specialities.

SHOs have to pass the Membership of the Royal College of Surgeons diploma to complete their training. They can then go on to a specialist registrar post, but there is a shortage of such posts in the popular specialities.

A report last week from the independent health think-tank, the King's Fund, said that many overseas and ethnic minority doctors suffered discrimination as they tried to move up the career ladder.

Dr Larvin said: "We offer career advice through e-Step. About 80 per cent of SHOs training for surgery say they want to be general surgeons, but this is only 20 per cent of the work. We can encourage people to consider other areas, such as brain surgery."

The RCS Raven Department of Education is the leading provider of postgraduate education for surgeons in the United Kingdom. It runs about 500 courses per year in the UK, which offer training to about 11,000 participants.

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