Background: The Academic Clinical Fellowship (ACF) programme in England was introduced in 2007 to support the training of clinical academics.
Aim: To report on career plans and views of ACF trainees.
Method: Questionnaire survey of trainees appointed in 2008.
Results: Of 102 responders, 63% expected to work eventually wholly in clinical academic posts, 34% in clinical service posts with some teaching and research, and none in clinical service posts with no teaching or research. Of factors that had influenced the choice of an academic career 'a great deal', 83% of responders cited having a 'varied and stimulating career', 79% the 'intellectual environment' of academic departments, 78% the 'challenge of research' and 62% the 'stimulation of teaching'. The most important factors that might dissuade them from eventually pursuing an academic career were 'difficulty obtaining research grants' (specified by 42%), followed by 'competing pressures in the three areas of research, clinical work and teaching', lack of 'pay parity with NHS colleagues', and concerns about adequate availability of academic posts at senior levels.
Conclusions: The responders were highly motivated by the challenges of academic work. However, policymakers need to consider what, if anything, might realistically be done about potentially demotivating factors.