Objectives: The requirement to align the arrangements for postgraduate training in the United Kingdom with those elsewhere in the European Community provided the opportunity to review and reform our arrangements for higher specialist training. This paper describes the case for change--the strengths and deficiencies of the traditional pattern of postgraduate medical training, demographic influences in the medical workforce and the need for a more structural or planned approach to training.
Conclusions: Over the past 5 years substantial progress has been made: the introduction of new regulatory arrangements and a new higher specialist training grade; the development of a managed and flexible system for delivering training to standards set by the Royal Colleges and which can accommodate the needs of those pursuing academic and research medicine; and the opportunity for trainees' progress to be measured against published curricula. The significant programme of change has been underpinned by careful workforce planning and the publication of comprehensive guidance. Significant reform of higher specialist training has been achieved. This paper also makes the case for a more strategic approach to planning and developing medical education across the continuum, from entry to medical school until retirement, which can guide medical education and improve patient care into the next millennium.