Objectives: To examine sex differences in the specialty training recruitment outcomes of UK medical graduates; and whether sex differences were explained by prior academic attainment and previous fitness to practise (FtP) declarations.
Design: Retrospective longitudinal cohort study.
Setting: Administrative data on entrants to all UK medical schools from the UK Medical Education Database.
Participants: 10 559 doctors (6 155; 58% female) who entered a UK medical school in 2007 or 2008 and were eligible to apply for specialty training by 2015.
Primary outcome measure: Odds of application, offer and acceptance to any specialty training programme, and on to each of the nine largest training programmes, adjusting for sex, other demographics, prior academic attainment, FtP declaration and medical school.
Results: Across all specialties, there were no sex differences in applications for specialty training, but women had increased odds of getting an offer (OR=1.40; 95% CI=1.25 to 1.57; p<0.001) and accepting one (OR=1.43; 95% CI=1.19 to 1.71; p<0.001). Seven of the nine largest specialties showed significant sex differences in applications, which remained after adjusting for other factors. In the adjusted models, Paediatrics (OR=1.57; 95% CI=1.01 to 2.46; p=0.046) and general practice (GP) (OR=1.23; 95% CI=1.03 to 1.46; p=0.017) were the only specialties to show sex differences in offers, both favouring women. GP alone showed sex differences in acceptances, with women being more likely to accept (OR=1.34; 95% CI=1.03 to 1.76; p=0.03). Doctors with an FtP declaration were slightly less likely to apply to specialty training overall (OR=0.84; 95% CI=0.71 to 1.00; p=0.048) and less likely to accept an offer to any programme (OR=0.71; 95% CI=0.52 to 0.98; p=0.036), after adjusting for confounders.
Conclusions: Sex segregation between medical specialties is due to differential application, although research is needed to understand why men are less likely to be offered a place on to GP and Paediatrics training, and if offered GP are less likely to accept.
Keywords: academic attainment; fitness to practise; medical workforce; professionalism; sex differences.
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