Workforce, training and education
East of England

Recruitment into Core Surgical Training


Core Surgical Training (CST) is a two-year programme that provides a basic grounding in surgery but may be tailored to the sub-specialty interests of successful applicants. The surgical specialties include general surgery, trauma and orthopaedics, urology, plastic surgery, ENT surgery, paediatric surgery and cardiothoracic surgery. Approximately 50 East of England posts are available each year.


The National Recruitment Process 

CST recruitment became a national process in 2013, so that each year candidates now make only one application. The Core Surgery National Recruitment Office (CSNRO), based at Health Education Kent, Surrey and Sussex (HEKSS), coordinates the application process and manages all the interviews for all the Local Education and Training Boards (LETBs) in England and all the Deaneries in Wales and Scotland. Further useful information is available on their dedicated website: The national selection process ensures a standardised and fair process and also allows applicants to be considered for a wide choice of rotations that are not limited to a particular location. All applications, invitations to interview, and job offers are made using a secure online system (Oriel).  Advertisements are published in November of the year before the start of training, and the closing date for applications is usually in early December.


Who Can Apply?

All applicants must meet the essential criteria outlined within the Person Specification, which may be downloaded via the Core Surgical Recruitment website (link above). The essential criteria include:

  • GMC registration & licence to practise
  • Evidence of Foundation competences. Usually this is achieved by completing a UK Foundation Programme within three years of the intended start date. An applicant can also submit alternative evidence by asking a Consultant who has supervised them for at least 3 months to attest to their achievement of foundation competency.
  • Advance Life Support (ALS) course completed by the intended start date
  • Less than 18 months of surgical experience

There is no short-listing, so all long-listed (eligible) applicants are guaranteed an interview. Last year 1396 applications were received for 604 posts (a competition ratio of 2.3:1).


The Structure of The National Interviews 

Since 2014 all the interviews have been held once per year over a 2-week period in late January and early February at a National Selection Centre (the Charing Cross Hotel in central London). The national recruitment process is constantly being evaluated and refined and so it is subject to change, but to date there have been three scoring stations: Portfolio, Management and Clinical Scenario. Each station lasts 10 minutes with a minimum of 3 minutes’ break between each station. Occasionally a pilot station has been trialled, but this has not contributed to the candidates’ total interview score. Every station has two interviewers, usually experienced surgical Consultants, each of whom will present a stem and a series of follow-up questions designed to last five minutes. Each year a cut-off score will be set, and any candidate who scores below this will not be deemed suitable for CST.


How the Offers System Works 

All appointable candidates are given a unique rank according to their total interview score. Also, each candidate is able to rank in order of preference all the CST programmes in England, Scotland and Wales. The online Oriel system then generates offers according to a candidate’s rank and preference, and the candidates are contacted via email and text message. Candidates may choose to accept, reject or hold an offer for 48 hours. All the posts are filled steadily over the course of several offer cycles. Candidates may apply for an upgrade in the hope that a preferred post becomes available.


Be Prepared 

CST recruitment is the common entry point for doctors who wish to embark on a surgical career. As there is only one set of interviews per year, it is important to be prepared well in advance. Aspiring surgeons should be familiar with the information provided on the Core Surgical Recruitment website and should start organising their portfolio as soon as possible. It is also advisable to ask any current or past core surgical trainees, registrars or consultants for advice and interview practice.  


Mr Chris Servant 

CST Recruitment Lead, Ipswich Hospital     

Monday, 24 December, 2018
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Monday, 24 December, 2018