Cardiothoracic Surgery Training Programme in HEE South West 


Rotation Information 

The South West regional  training programme in Cardiothoracic Surgery is shared between the following sites:

  • Bristol Heart Institute (Cardiac GUCH)
  • Bristol Royal Infirmary (General Thoracic)
  • Bristol Royal Hospital for Children (Congenital Paediatric Surgery)
  • Derriford Hospital, Plymouth (Cardiac & Thoracic)


We have a strong reputation for training and career progression with all trainees post scheme being appointed to Consultant posts.


HEE South West have two offices, one in Bristol and one in Plymouth.  The Cardiothoracic Programme is managed by Severn PGME.  The Education & Programme Manager is Susan House


  • Funding for study leave is now administered by the employing Trust. 


The TPD rotates between the two centres.


Trainees rotate between the two centres with approximately half their training at either place. Appointment to the rotation at ST1/ST3 level is through national recruitment led by HEE Wessex.

There are 4 deanery approved training posts in Bristol with one Academic Clinical Fellow (ACF) post. Plymouth has 5 deanery approved training posts.

The programme has an excellent set of committed and highly quality trainers.  The programme offers comprehensive coverage of the curriculum and is well organised, accommodating individual training needs where  possible.  It has a good track record of supporting OOPs and Fellowship.

 ST1 Rotation

The ST1 post is based in Plymouth and comprises 2 years at Core Trainee level with 6 months General Surgery, 6 months Vascular Surgery and 12 months Cardiothoracic Surgery before progressing through to the Southwest ST3 rotation. Trainees will attend the Cardiothoracic ARCP during their ST1-2 training.


ST3 Rotation 

Expected rotation arrangements for this programme are:

  • Nationally selected trainees will rotate between Bristol and Plymouth spending 2-4 years in either post
  • In both centres trainees will spend 6 months in a firm based (consultant clinical supervisor) arrangement under a single educational supervisor
  • ACFs will be based in Bristol for the first 3 years of their training
  • Paediatric cardiac surgery is based in Bristol. Trainees will spend at least 6 months in the unit

Registrar rotas at both units are compliant with the EWTD. Features include:

  • Non-resident on call registrar
  • Day off post on-call (Bristol cardiothoracic trainee workload ranks in the best 5% of UK programs in the GMC survey)
  • Firm based training at core training level and beyond
  • Structured training for core trainees by SCPs in theatre
  • Nurse Practitioner support in ward areas

Training Information

The Bristol component of the training programme takes place on three separate but closely-linked campuses – The Bristol Heart Institute (BHI)(Adult Heart Surgery, 1500 cases annually), The Bristol Royal Infirmary (General Thoracic Surgery, 950 cases annually) and the Bristol Royal Hospital for Children (Paediatric Cardiac Surgery, 400 cases annually). There are 15 Consultant Surgeons (including 3 Professors and 1 Senior Lecturer).

Particular strengths include the significant contribution of trainers to training (more than 50% of cases performed by trainees), the wide experience in OPCAB, Senior Fellowship in Mitral Valve Surgery and research with the pre-eminent Academic Surgical Unit.

The last 8 years has seen a new £65 million purpose-built BHI, the expansion of the Thoracic Surgery Service from 450 cases to 960 annually, development of the minimal access surgery unit (≥100 TAVI’s, 70 MIDCAB, 120 mini-mitrals and more than ≥250 mini-AVR’s) and the development of a VATS Lobectomy programme. There has now been the introduction of Aortic and Minimal access courses. Training in Bristol will comprise time spent in Adult & Paediatric Cardiac and General Thoracic Surgery depending upon the trainee’s career intentions. There will be excellent training in all aspects including OPCAB/minimal-access surgery/Aortic/Mitral  & VATS resections. The continuing expansion in TAVI/Mitraclip and EVAR will cascade to enhanced opportunities for future NTN’s to be trained in these techniques.    

Particular strengths include a strong tradition of training in cardiac surgery (more than 50% of cardiac cases performed by trainees), including excellent experience in OPCAB. There are research opportunities with the renowned Academic Surgical Unit.

Courses in aortic surgery and minimal access surgery, weekly postgraduate seminars and regional study days are available. There is an active TAVI programme and a dedicated hybrid theatre.

Training in Bristol will comprise time spent in adult & paediatric cardiac and general thoracic surgery, depending upon the trainee’s career intentions. There will be excellent training in all aspects including OPCAB/minimal-access surgery & VATS resections.


The academic component is based at the Bristol Heart Institute, linked with the University of Bristol. Bristol is a Russell Group University, ranked within the top 30 Universities in the world (QS world rankings 2014). The medical academic staff includes:

X1 British Heart Foundation Professor of Cardiac Surgery
X1 Bristol University Professor of Cardiac Surgery
X2 Bristol University Readers of Cardiac Surgery
X1 Research Fellow

There are a large number of high impact papers published by our trainees each year.



The Plymouth component of the training programme is based at Derriford Hospital, Plymouth which has, in the last two years relocated to the £40 million Sir Terence Lewis Building - The South West Cardiothoracic Centre, performing 1300 adult cardiac and 600 general thoracic procedures annually.

There are 7 full time cardiac consultants and 4 full time thoracic consultants.

Thoracic Surgery has now relocated from Exeter to Derriford. Particular areas of specialisation include minimal access mitral and aortic valve surgery, TAVI, AF surgery and aortic surgery.

We have strong ties with the Peninsula Medical School and developed the Surgical Nurse Practitioner programme for the South West with collaboration with the school of nursing, freeing up time for junior doctors to spend more time on training and less on service delivery.

The South West is one of very few UK cardiothoracic programmes able to offer training in oesophageal surgery.

Particular areas of specialisation include minimal access mitral and aortic valve surgery, TAVI, AF surgery, minimally invasive valve surgery and aortic surgery

Both Bristol and Plymouth are designated Adult Major Trauma Centers (MTC). BRCH is a designated paediatrc MTC.


There are a number of regular teaching sessions and formal study days arranged throughout the year:

  1. Weekly departmental teaching for trainees in Plymouth and Bristol
  2. Monthly regional Core Trainee Meetings (Peninsula)
  3. Regional study days held 3-4 times per year between Severn and Peninsula PGME
  4. Aortic Valve Study Day 
  5. Aortic Surgical Study Day (Bristol) 
  6. Minimally Invasive Workshop – Bristol 
  7. Mitral Study Day and Wetlab teaching 
  8. Cardiopulmonary Bypass Study Day
  9. Thoracic Stapling and Airway Anastomosis Course
  10. Modern Management of Lung Cancer Symposium

Our faculty are actively involved with national educational events, including: 

  1. Specialty Skills Course in Cardiothoracic Surgery
  2. Intermediate Skills Course
  3. Professional Development Course
  4. Birmingham Review Course
  5. RCSEng Training the Trainer Course
  6. SCTS University
  7. Cardiothoracic Trainees National “Boot Camp”


Study Leave

From September 2019 all study leave is administered by the employing Trust.  Please refer to the Study Leave pages on the website


Consultants from both units are involved with undergraduate training at a national level:

  • Basic skills course CTh RCSE
  • Intermediate skills course RCSE
  • Birmingham review course
  • SCTS University
  • Professional development course


Hunaid Vohra  - Training Programme Director


Susan House - Education & Programme Manager responsible for recruitment and selection, educational monitoring of programme. 



For assessment requirements, please see the ARCP Checklist.


The next ARCP date for 2021 is:   7 July 2021.  This is for the panel only.  Trainees will be given feedback after this date. 

Cut off date for ISCP to be updated and all paperwork uploaded and Form R returned to Programme Manager is  Wednesday 23rd June 2021