Objective: To report the career intentions one year after qualification of doctors who qualified in the United Kingdom (UK) in 1996, and to compare their intentions with those of 1993 qualifiers at the same stage.
Design: Postal questionnaires.
Setting: United Kingdom.
Subjects: All doctors who qualified in the UK in 1996.
Main outcome measures: Choices of eventual career expressed one year after qualifying.
Results: We report on detailed choices of long-term careers for all specialties. Only 20% of 1996 respondents chose general practice compared with 25.8% of 1993 respondents. The percentage choosing general practice fell more sharply among women, from 34.0% to 25.2%, than among men, from 17.5% to 14.1%. Choices for surgical specialties rose from 16.9% of 1993 respondents to 21. 4% of 1996 respondents. The percentage choosing the surgical specialties rose among women, from 7.8% to 11.6%, compared with a rise among men from 26.1% to 32.2%. The percentage of respondents who definitely or probably intended to pursue a long-term career in the UK was 77.7% compared with 75.7% of 1993 respondents. Most of the home-based respondents who had doubts about practising in the United Kingdom were considering practising abroad. Only 1% made an explicit first choice for a non-medical career. However, in all, 9. 4% said that there was a possibility that they might leave medicine.
Conclusion: The substantial decline in intentions to enter general practice among newly qualified doctors, seen in the 1993 qualifiers, is continued in the 1996 qualifiers. A shortfall in recruitment of UK-trained doctors to general practice is the likely outcome. The rise in choices for the surgical specialties, particularly among women, may herald a renewed interest in hospital specialist training following the Calman changes. It is worrying that almost a quarter of respondents indicated some doubts about pursuing a medical career in the UK.