Objective: To report the trends in career choices for obstetrics and gynaecology among UK medical graduates.
Design: Postal questionnaire surveys of qualifiers from all UK medical schools in nine qualification years since 1974.
Setting: United Kingdom.
Population: All graduates from UK medical schools in 1974, 1977, 1980, 1983, 1993, 1996, 1999, 2000 and 2002.
Methods: Postal questionnaire surveys.
Main outcome measures: Career choices for obstetrics and gynaecology and factors influencing career choices for obstetrics and gynaecology.
Results: Seventy-four percent (24,623/33,417) and 73% (20,709/28,468) of doctors responded at 1 and 3 years after qualification. Choices for obstetrics and gynaecology fell sharply during the 1990s from 4.2% of 1996 qualifiers to 2.2% of 1999 qualifiers, and rose slightly to 2.8% of 2002 qualifiers. Only 0.8% of male graduates of 2002 chose obstetrics and gynaecology compared with 4.1% of women. Forty-six percent of those who chose obstetrics and gynaecology 1 year after qualification were working in it 10 years after qualifying. Experience of the subject as a student, and the influence of a particular teacher or department, affected long-term career choices more for obstetrics and gynaecology than for other careers.
Conclusions: The unwillingness of young doctors to enter obstetrics and gynaecology may be attributable to concerns about workforce planning and career progression problems, rather than any lack of enthusiasm for the specialty. The number of men choosing obstetrics and gynaecology is now very small; the reasons and the future role of men in the specialty need to be debated.