Subspecialisation in surgery and the continuing challenge of providing emergency surgery services

Ian R Gough
Med J Aust 2008; 189 (7): . || doi: 10.5694/j.1326-5377.2008.tb02078.x
Published online: 6 October 2008

The future viability of general surgery may depend on combining subspecialty elective surgery with full-scope acute practice in both public and private settings

Subspecialisation in surgery is an irresistible and irreversible force. It improves standards of patient care1 but tends to be accompanied by an erosion of competence in the broad scope of the major specialty. For example, many major hospitals in Australia have had difficulty retaining subspecialty breast surgeons on the on-call roster because these surgeons feel that their competence to manage the full range of general surgical emergencies has been diminished by their day-to-day practice involving primarily the breast and axilla and rarely the abdomen. Nevertheless, the community needs surgeons willing and able to provide acute surgical care in the major specialties, including general surgery. Is it possible to have a model of care that satisfies both of these apparently divergent scopes of practice?

  • Ian R Gough1,2

  • 1 Royal Australasian College of Surgeons, Melbourne, VIC.
  • 2 Royal Brisbane and Women’s Hospital, Brisbane, QLD.



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