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Participation in Medicine by Graduates of Medical Schools in the United Kingdom up to 25 Years Post Graduation: National Cohort Surveys

Goldacre, Michael J. FFPH; Lambert, Trevor W. MSc

doi: 10.1097/ACM.0b013e31828b364f
Research Reports

Purpose To determine—as a guide to assess outcomes of medical education, and for medical workforce planning—whether the great majority of graduates from UK medical schools eventually practice medicine.

Method The authors estimated the level of participation in medicine, in selected years after graduation, of nine cohorts (graduating between 1974 and 2002, inclusive) of graduates from medical schools in the United Kingdom. Their estimation is based on survey-garnered data combined with national employment data, and it uses the statistical method of capture–recapture analysis. This method provides both a lower likely limit and an upper likely limit of the percentage of doctors practicing in medicine. The lower and upper limits depend, essentially, on a range of assumptions about nonresponders.

Results The authors estimate that at least 90% of graduates from UK medical schools work in medicine for many years after graduation. Women are only slightly less likely than men to follow a medical career. To illustrate, of the doctors who lived in the United Kingdom before medical school, at 10 years after graduation, between 95.6% and 98.8% of men were in medicine, as were between 91.9% and 93.3% of women. UK medical graduates from homes outside the United Kingdom were less likely to work in the National Health Service and more likely to pursue a career outside the United Kingdom, but were not appreciably less likely than graduates from UK homes to work in medicine.

Conclusions UK-trained doctors rarely give up a medical career within 25 years of graduation.

Professor Goldacre is professor of public health, Department of Public Health, University of Oxford, Oxford, England.

Mr. Lambert is statistician and study coordinator, Department of Public Health, University of Oxford, Oxford, England.

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Correspondence should be addressed to Mr. Lambert, Unit of Health-Care Epidemiology, Department of Public Health, University of Oxford, Old Road Campus, Old Road, Oxford OX7 3LF, United Kingdom; telephone: (+44/0) 1865-289389; fax: (+44/0) 1865-289379; e-mail:

© 2013 Association of American Medical Colleges