Background: We analysed the learning and professional development narratives of Hospital Consultants training junior staff ('Consultant Trainers') in order to identify impediments to successful postgraduate medical training in the UK, in the context of Modernising Medical Careers (MMC) and the European Working Time Directive (EWTD).
Methods: Qualitative study. Learning and continuing professional development (CPD), were discussed in the context of Consultant Trainers' personal biographies, organisational culture and medical education practices. We conducted life story interviews with 20 Hospital Consultants in six NHS Trusts in Wales in 2005.
Results: Consultant Trainers felt that new working patterns resulting from the EWTD and MMC have changed the nature of medical education. Loss of continuity of care, reduced clinical exposure of medical trainees and loss of the popular apprenticeship model were seen as detrimental for the quality of medical training and patient care. Consultant Trainers' perceptions of medical education were embedded in a traditional medical education culture, which expected long hours' availability, personal sacrifices and learning without formal educational support and supervision. Over-reliance on apprenticeship in combination with lack of organisational support for Consultant Trainers' new responsibilities, resulting from the introduction of MMC, and lack of interest in pursuing training in teaching, supervision and assessment represent potentially significant barriers to progress.
Conclusion: This study identifies issues with significant implications for the implementation of MMC within the context of EWTD. Postgraduate Deaneries, NHS Trusts and the new body; NHS: Medical Education England should deal with the deficiencies of MMC and challenges of ETWD and aspire to excellence. Further research is needed to investigate the views and educational practices of Consultant Medical Trainers and medical trainees.