Objective: To report junior doctors' views on specialist registrar (SpR) training.
Design: In 1999, as part of ongoing studies of doctors' careers, we surveyed all doctors who had qualified from UK medical schools in 1993. Structured questions about recipients' careers were accompanied by a form inviting free text comments. Comments about the SpR scheme were extracted for analysis.
Results: Doctors commented that there were insufficient national training numbers (NTNs) for those who wanted them, and that more than the minimum entry requirements seemed necessary for shortlisting. Strengthening curricula vitae through research and published work could prolong the duration of training and did not guarantee success. Specialist registrar training was considered by some respondents to be narrow and inflexible, with service work taking priority over training needs. As a result, some respondents feared they would not be competent to practise as consultants. There was a perceived shortage of consultant vacancies and 6 months was considered insufficient time for obtaining a suitable post.
Discussion: It is inevitable that doctors may not necessarily be able to pursue their initially chosen career paths. Trainers need to provide realistic advice about career opportunities. Provision of information about NTN availability and formal career counselling could help to prevent delays in career progression. The shortened and more structured programme of training has reduced its flexibility in some doctors' experience. Improvements in educational content will need greater input from consultants, which may require an increase in consultant posts. Time will tell whether concerns about competence to practise as consultants and consultant post availability will be justified.