Objective To explore attitudes among National Health Service consultants responsible for delivering basic clinical teaching to medical students.
Design Postal questionnaire.
Subjects and setting A total of 308 acute hospital trust consultants working in 4 ‘new’ and 4 ‘established’ teaching hospitals in the West Midlands metropolitan area, and involved in the delivery of clinical teaching to Year 3 medical students at the University of Birmingham Medical School during 2002−03.
Main outcome measure(s) The questionnaire explored contractual requirements, actual teaching commitments and perceptions of medical students' knowledge and attitudes. Responses from doctors and surgeons and from respondents working in established and new teaching hospitals were compared.
Results A total of 249 responses were received (response rate 80.8%). Although many consultants enjoy teaching students, their enjoyment and their ability to deliver high standards of teaching are compromised by time and resource constraints. For many the situation is aggravated by the perceived inappropriate organisation of the clinical teaching curriculum and the inadequate preparation of students for clinical practice. Linking these themes is the overarching perception among teachers that neither service nor educational establishments afford teaching the levels of recognition and reward associated with clinical work or research.
Conclusion To overcome barriers to teaching requires more reciprocal links between hospital staff and medical schools, opportunities for consultants to understand and to comment on curricular and timetable developments, and, perhaps most importantly, recognition (in contractual, financial, managerial and personal terms) of the importance of undergraduate teaching in the competing triad of service, research and education.