We studied the impact of introducing percutaneous tracheostomy to our intensive care unit on the incidence and timing of tracheostomy and on the implications for surgical training. The proportion of patients receiving intensive care who underwent tracheostomy doubled from a median of 8.5% to 16.8% (p < 0.01) following the introduction of the percutaneous technique with the procedure being undertaken significantly earlier during the intensive care stay. The opportunity for surgical trainees to gain experience in open surgical tracheostomy has been virtually lost. The increase in tracheostomy rate may reflect a previous under-utilisation caused by the logistic problems of transferring a critically ill patient to theatre, or alternatively a relaxation of the indications for tracheostomy caused by a perceived benefit for the patient. An increased workload may also have contributed to the rise. Surgical trainees should be encouraged to learn percutaneous techniques and training opportunities in open surgical techniques should be maximised.