Specialist training at the registrar grade in the United Kingdom has undergone significant change in the recent past. One of the effects has been a reduction in the length of time spent in training. This and the application of the European working time directive have the potential to reduce trainees’ surgical exposure. The proportion of tympanic membrane procedures performed by reconstructive otolaryngology registrars in the Grampian University hospitals was audited to monitor the impact of these changes.
Case notes of all patients who underwent myringoplasty or tympanoplasty between July 1998 and June 1999 were analysed retrospectively. Details of the surgeons’ grade were recorded. The proportion of myringoplasties performed by registrars as determined by the Royal College of Surgeons of England National Comparative Audit survey, carried out in 1995 before the widespread implementation of recommended changes in otolaryngology registrar training, was set as the gold standard.
In the period July 1998–1999 registrars had performed fewer myringoplasties than the standard, 17 per cent versus 34.2 per cent respectively (p = 0.035). A strategy to increase registrar exposure to myringoplasty surgery was then adopted by the department and the proportion of myringoplasties performed by registrars re-audited prospectively. The proportion of myringoplasties undertaken by registrars increased in the period January 2001 to July 2001 compared to July 1998–1999, 53 per cent versus 17 per cent respectively (p < 0.0007).
Changes in working practice can address shortfalls in registrars' exposure to surgical procedures.