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In the UK and many other countries, many specialties have had longstanding problems with recruitment and have increasingly relied on international medical graduates to fill junior and senior posts. We aimed to determine what specialties were the most popular and desirable among candidates for training posts, and whether this differed by country of undergraduate training.
We conducted a database analysis of applications to Modernising Medical Careers for all training posts in England in 2008. Total number of applications (as an index of popularity) and applications per vacancy (as an index of desirability) were analysed for ten different specialties. We tested whether mean consultant incomes correlated with specialty choice.
In, 2008, there were 80,949 applications for specialty training in England, of which 31,434 were UK graduates (39%). Among UK medical graduates, psychiatry was the sixth most popular specialty (999 applicants) out of 10 specialty groups, while it was fourth for international graduates (5,953 applicants). Among UK graduates, surgery (9.4 applicants per vacancy) and radiology (8.0) had the highest number of applicants per vacancy and paediatrics (1.2) and psychiatry (1.1) the lowest. Among international medical graduates, psychiatry had the fourth highest number of applicants per place (6.3). Specialty popularity for UK graduates was correlated with predicted income (p = 0.006).
Based on the number of applicants per place, there was some consistency in the most popular specialties for both UK and international medical graduates, but there were differences in the popularity of psychiatry. With anticipated decreases in the number of new international medical graduates training in the UK, university departments and professional associations may need to review strategies to attract more UK medical graduates into certain specialties, particularly psychiatry and paediatrics.