Official Partner The Royal Society of Medicine


Women in Surgery

The NHS and RCS have enacted multiple schemes, such as Women in Surgery, LTFT, and NHS maternity pay, in order to increase the number of female surgeons.

Increasing the Number of Female Surgeons

Women in Surgery

In 2007, the Royal College of Surgeons established Women in Surgery – a national initiative set up to encourage women to achieve their career goals in surgery. They provide support and guidance for practising female surgeons, as well as those who are considering surgery as a career.

In 2014, around 10.5% of consultant surgeons, and 29.5% of trainees, in England were women. A survey published in 2010 found that, five years after graduation, only 5.6% of women wanted to pursue a surgical career compared to 18.5% of men.


A survey of 9,155 doctors, conducted one year after they had qualified, found that concerns about work-life balance were the most common reason among women for choosing not to pursue a career in surgery – 56.5% of women, compared to 27.6% of men. Respondents expressed numerous concerns, including long working hours, and the belief that it was not possible for women to have families whilst working as female surgeons.

A small study of 13 consultants of various specialities, working in two NHS trusts in England found that although work-life balance was a concern for both male and female consultants, women expressed greater amounts of stress due to their responsibilities outside of their medical practice. Other reasons for rejecting a career in surgery included concerns that it was too competitive and male-dominated.


Trainees in surgery looking for flexibility can apply for less than full time training – increasing the total training time. To be eligible for LTFT training, the applicant must be a trainee in surgery, and must obtain their flexible training post in open competition with trainees who are working full time. Applicants must have good reasons for needing to train less than full time, falling into one of two categories:

Deaneries control the funding for all LTFT training. It is often difficult to acquire, and features a long waiting list. Some trainees instead choose a job-share position, without separate contracts, giving them more time to study. However, a slot-share job ensures trainees receive a separate contract and work 60-80% of a full-time job. Trainees can take up to three months’ maternity or sick leave before they need to extend their CCT date. LTFT does not generally affect a trainee’s right to 52 weeks’ maternity leave.

NHS Maternity Pay 

All NHS employees may take 52 weeks’ maternity leave. Employees who have worked for 12 months continuously in the NHS by 11 weeks before their due date are entitled to receive full NHS maternity pay for eight weeks, then half-pay for 18. Those who have not can only take statutory maternity pay.


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