Is the number of new trauma and orthopaedic consultant posts increasing or decreasing?

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Trauma and orthopaedics is a popular surgical specialty in the UK. Recent changes to the National Health Service have suggested an imbalance with fewer jobs yet more trainees. Furthermore, subspecialisation is emerging within all surgical disciplines. The aim of this study was to examine whether there were decreasing numbers of trauma and orthopaedic (T&O) consultant appointments in the UK, and to determine the frequency of subspecialisation.


All 51 issues of the British Medical Journal (BMJ) careers supplement from the year 2000 were reviewed as well as the 51 issues from 2010. The number of T&O posts, requested subspecialty interests and the number of posts in other surgical specialties were analysed.


A total of 481 consultant posts in T&O were advertised in the 102 issues of the careers supplements reviewed. Of these, 281 were advertised in 2000 and 200 in 2010. The mean number of posts per issue was 5.5 in 2000 and 3.9 in 2010. In 2000 orthopaedic posts represented 30.5% of all surgical posts while in 2010 this was 37.8%. Under two-thirds (61.6%) of posts requested a specialty interest in 2000 but this increased to 93% in 2010. The greatest increase in named subspecialty was seen in ‘spine’ (from 4.1% to 19.0%.) while ‘general’ had the greatest decrease (from 38.4% to 7.0%).


UK consultant posts in T&O are decreasing in frequency. Most advertised posts request a subspecialty interest but registrar training focuses on producing ‘generally’ competent orthopaedic consultants. The onus is therefore on fellowships to develop subspecialty interest. As these are not all educationally approved, reconfiguration of fellowships is likely to be necessary.

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