BACKGROUND: Concerns have been raised as to whether the current postgraduate training programme for gynaecological surgery is being detrimentally affected by changes in working practices, in particular the European Working Time Directive (EWTD). The purpose of this study was to investigate the surgical activity of obstetrics and gynaecology trainees and to explore trainees' and trainers' opinions on the current barriers and potential solutions to surgical training.METHODS: Two questionnaire surveys were conducted, one to obstetrics and gynaecology trainees working within the West Midlands Deanery and a second to consultant gynaecologists in the West Midlands region.RESULTS: One hundred and four trainees (64.3%) and 66 consultant gynaecologists (55.0%) responded. Sixty-six trainees (66.7%) reported attending up to one operating list per week. However, 28.1% reported attending up to one list every two weeks or less and 5 trainees stated that they had not attended a list at all over the preceding 8 weeks. Trainees working in a unit with less than 3999 deliveries attended significantly more theatre sessions compared to trainees in units with over 4000 deliveries (p = 0.007), as did senior trainees (p = 0.032) and trainees attached to consultants performing major gynaecological surgery (p = 0.022). In the previous 8 weeks, only 6 trainees reported performing a total abdominal hysterectomy independently, all were senior trainees (ST6 and above). In the trainers' survey, only two respondents (3.0%) agreed that the current program produces doctors competent in general gynaecological surgery by the end of training, compared to 48 (73.8%) respondents who disagreed.CONCLUSIONS: Trainees' concerns over a lack of surgical training appear to be justified. The main barriers to training are perceived to be a lack of team structure and a lack of theatre time.