The authors aimed to report the views of pre-registration house officers (PRHOs) on their experience of working in the UK National Health Service (NHS). All doctors who qualified from UK medical schools in 1999 were surveyed towards the end of their pre-registration year. Structured questions concerning career choices and experiences were accompanied by a form inviting free-text comment. Comments were transcribed and coded by topic. Those related to working conditions were selected for analysis. Respondents commented that aspects of the PRHO year had been enjoyable but were critical of working conditions. For instance: heavy workloads caused working hours to regularly contravene contractual limits, out-of-hours pay did not accurately reflect responsibilities, out-of-hours facilities were sometimes poor. A few respondents' experiences had deterred them from continuing their NHS hospital training. Most PRHOs had enjoyed the year despite poor working conditions; for a few, their educational experience was marred.