Background: A survey of newly qualified doctors in the UK in 2000/2001 found that 42% of them felt unprepared for their first year of employment in clinical posts. We report on how UK qualifiers' preparedness has changed since then, and on the impact of course changes upon preparedness.
Methods: Postal questionnaires were sent to all doctors who qualified from UK medical schools, in their first year of clinical work, in 2003 (n = 4257) and 2005 (n = 4784); and findings were compared with those in 2000/2001 (n = 5330). The response rates were 67% in 2000/2001, 65% in 2003, and 43% in 2005. The outcome measure was the percentage of doctors agreeing with the statement "My experience at medical school has prepared me well for the jobs I have undertaken so far".
Results: In the 2000/2001 survey 36.3% strongly agreed or agreed with the statement, as did 50.3% in the 2003 survey and 58.5% in 2005 (chi-squared test for linear trend: chi2 = 259.5; df = 1; p < 0.001). Substantial variation in preparedness between doctors from different medical schools, reported in the first survey, was still present in 2003 and 2005. Between 1998 and 2006 all UK medical schools updated their courses. Within each cohort a significantly higher percentage of the respondents from schools with updated courses felt well prepared.
Conclusion: UK medical schools are now training doctors who feel better prepared for work than in the past. Some of the improvement may be attributable to curricular change.