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Regional variation in current UK ophthalmic surgical training

07 May 2013


To evaluate surgical experience among current doctors appointed into ophthalmology training posts since the introduction of the Modernising Medical Careers programme. Additionally, to identify regional variations in surgical experience and training programme delivery.


A cross-sectional survey.


The UK's four largest deaneries (Schools of Ophthalmology).


Trainee ophthalmologists, all having completed three or more years of training, who were appointed to the new ophthalmic specialty training programme.

Primary and secondary outcome measures

The mean annual surgical rate for each deanery in phacoemulsification cataract extractions and experience in other common elective and emergency surgical operations. Second, to calculate the mean timetabled clinical activity.


The responses of 40 doctors were analysed, with a response rate of 83%. Overall, the phacoemulsification rate was 73.52±29.24 operations/year. This was significantly higher in the South Thames Deanery (99.69±26.16, p=0.0005) and significantly lower in the North Western Deanery (48.08±19.72, p=0.0008). The annual mean complex cataract rate was 5.21±4.38. Only 40% were confident in dealing with the most common complication of cataract surgery (vitreous loss). The mean trabeculectomy (surgery for glaucoma) rate was 0.47±1.16 and for squint surgery it was 3.54±2.82 operations/year. Regarding the common ocular trauma surgery, 42.5% had not sutured a corneal laceration and 60% a globe rupture. 50% thought the training programme would adequately prepare them surgically. The timetabled clinical activity was highest in the South Thames Deanery (48.17 h/week) and lowest in the North Western Deanery (40.82 h/week) due to variations in the European Working Time Directive implementation and on-call commitments.


Significant regional variations in surgical training experience exist between UK deaneries, particularly with respect to cataract surgery, and they appear to be correlated to timetabled activity. Experience and confidence levels in managing complex cataract surgery and complications were low and experience with previously commonly performed elective and emergency operations was minimal. Although doctors from all the regions surveyed were very likely to achieve the minimum cataract extractions required for specialist training completion, we have identified shortcomings of the current training programme that need attention.

7 May 2013

Click here to view the full article which appeared in BMJ Open