General Surgery

General Surgery


The Centre for Workforce Intelligence (CfWI) published Securing the future workforce supply: general surgery stocktake on 29 January 2016.

This review, commissioned by Health Education England (HEE) and the Department of Health, is designed to inform decisions on the number of general surgeons likely to be required to meet patient demand up until 2029.

The review assesses the key drivers of workforce demand and supply for general surgery and estimates the future number of Certificate of Completion of Training (CCT) holders that would enable current levels of services per patient to be maintained to 2029.

It also estimates how many trainees need to enter higher specialty training level three (ST3) to ensure workforce supply is broadly in balance with expected demand to 2029.

Findings contained in the stocktake of the general surgery workforce in England include the following:

  • There will be a 67 per cent growth in expected patient demand for general surgical services by 2029. However, this is likely to be a high estimate (at the top end of any likely range of estimates).
  • Workforce supply and expected patient demand for general surgery are likely to remain broadly in balance over the projection period, provided the general surgery ST3 intake for England (excluding vascular surgery) is maintained at around 111 trainees per year.
  • The number of general surgery CCT holders (excluding the vascular element) is forecast to grow to around 2,660 (FTE) by 2029, a 67 per cent increase on 2013 level. Projected headcount levels would increase by 71 per cent to around 2,800 by 2029.

These key findings have led the CfWI to suggest that HEE considers what action may be required to bringing supply and demand into balance in the medium term. These include:

  • Maintaining general surgery ST3 recruitment at around 111 trainees per year for the next three annual recruitment rounds, and that this workforce stocktake be updated before the end of 2018 to make suggestions on the appropriate ST3 trainee levels from 2018-19 onwards.
  • Carrying out assessments of the impacts on surgeon productivity as a result of skill mix initiatives, new surgical care models and pathways, service reconfigurations, and changes to the quality or complexity of surgical procedures are carried out and quantified before the next workforce stocktake in 2018
  • Recoding of vascular surgeons on the ESR to be completed as soon as possible.
  • Updating the general surgery workforce stocktake before the end of 2018 to make suggestions on the appropriate ST3 trainee levels from 2018-19 onwards. A review should also be conducted for the vascular surgery workforce. It would be preferable that both reports take a whole-team review approach, so that skill mix can be taken account of.

The report has been provided to HEE and will help inform its annual workforce planning process in considering an adequate supply of future consultants to maintain current levels of general surgery services per patients in the next 15 years.

To read and comment on the publication, please visit