Objective -To assess the quality of preregistration house officer training in eight English regions.
Design -Postal questionnaire.
Setting -Thames, East Anglian, Mersey, Northern, and Wessex regions.
Participants -1,670 preregistration house officers.
Main outcome measures -Education, hours of work, workload, conditions of work, and attitudes to job and medicine as a career.
Results -Response rate was 69% (1,146 replies). Most house officers had attended induction courses (1036/1129 (92%)); 74% (757/1024) found them satisfactory. The proportions who had never received adequate guidance on how to break bad news and how to control pain were 59% (670/1135) and 56% (634/1136) respectively. There was much variation between regions. Overall, 65% (736/1138) reported confidence in performing cardiopulmonary resuscitation. Most respondents (95% (1089/1142)) worked an on call rota, 3% (36) a partial shift, and 0.6% (seven) a full shift; 19% (202) were on duty for average weekly hours that exceeded the targets for 1 April 1993. House officers had a median of 20 patients under their care and clerked a median of 10 emergency cases, six routine cases, and two day cases a week. Over half (690/1128 (61%)) could not obtain hot food after 8 pm, 20% (223/1095) did not always have clean sheets available in their on call room, and 45% (462/1036) did not consider the protection of staff against violence to be adequate at their hospital. The most important problems with the preregistration year were inappropriate or non-medical tasks (ranked first by 360 respondents), hours of work (359), and pay for out of hours work (167). Overall 57% (646/1125) would encourage a friend to apply for their post, but only 24% (266/1112) would encourage a friend to take up medicine and 44% (494/1112) would discourage the idea.
Conclusions -House officers' training is deficient in important respects, with inappropriate tasks and heavy clinical workloads impeding the provision of proper education.