NHS Losing Surgical Talent


Onur Gilleard, one of ten trainee surgeons featured in ITV’s 2009 documentary series “Surgery School,” claims that the NHS is losing significant surgical talent. Fifteen years after the series aired, Gilleard states he is one of “maybe three” still practicing surgery. He cites financial pressures and family circumstances as primary reasons for the loss of potential UK surgeons annually.

The popular docuseries, filmed in collaboration with The Royal College of Surgeons, followed the trainees over an eight-month period as they sat exams, worked in A&E, and in operating theatres, aiming to launch their surgical careers. Onur began his surgical training at Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust, working at Hammersmith and Charing Cross Hospitals.

After ten years as an NHS plastic surgeon, Onur has now become a renowned Harley Street rhinoplasty and nasal reconstruction surgeon. He notes that many participants from the program who left surgical training pursued other medical specialties or left medicine altogether—a typical scenario in the current NHS surgery sector.

“In the demanding realm of surgery, 2.7 percent of trainees leave the sector each year,” explains Onur. “This means around one in five will drop out before they become a consultant.” He highlights the significant challenges these committed trainees face, particularly in achieving a work-life balance while managing intensive careers and personal lives.

The ongoing junior doctor strikes underscore the financial challenges confronting trainees, who often extend into their late 30s and early 40s. The stress of the operating room, combined with the pressure to progress through unpaid extra work, research, and publications, significantly adds to their burden. Additionally, the escalating costs of childcare complicate the aspiration to start a family. The once appealing rewards at the conclusion of this demanding journey—becoming a consultant—are no longer as attractive or guaranteed.

Addressing these issues comprehensively is crucial to prevent the loss of talent and to ensure the future of surgical care.

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We understand that it can feel like a big step deciding to book a consultation and start your journey. Onur Gilleard and his team are here to help you towards becoming your most confident self. You will most likely speak to our practice manager Jayne, who will be able to advise you the best course of action and organise your consultation if you feel ready.

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