Pioneer course for surgeon e-training at UEA

A leading Norfolk surgeon is pioneering a revolutionary e-learning masters degree at the UEA's school of medicine, which is being hailed as the way forward for training consultants.

Jerome Pereira, an acclaimed expert in breast reconstruction, has been working towards setting up the Masters degree in oncoplastic breast surgery for two years and the first 15 students – doctors from across the country – will begin their two-year course next month.

Professor Pereira, who is based at Gorleston's James Paget University Hospital (JPH), said his inspiration had come from the 2009 European directive which imposed a 48-hour limit on a doctor's working week.

'It meant the hours of training for doctors working towards becoming specialist surgeons were drastically cut, which created quite a problem in terms of the experience they were gaining,' he said.

'New trainees were looking at 7,000 hours of training compared to as many as 30,000 hours previously.' To bridge that gap, he has developed the e-learning degree in partnership with Universty of East Anglia professor Sam Leinster, enabling doctors to study outside work.

He said: 'We offer a highly specialised syllabus that is tested and examine every element of theory as well as practical and operative skill.' Study days at the UEA will augment the learning on line.

The course will use the expertise of specialist surgeons at the JPH and Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital, and recruit further top talent from around the country.

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Prof Pereira said the initiative, supported by the Royal College of Surgeons, meant the UEA was leading the world in innovation.

He said: 'At the moment, the training of surgeons can be an ad hoc experience. Using this method, surgeons will have to cover the full range of operations.

'It means that in the final three years leading up to them becoming consultants, they will be receiving the highest quality of training in this field anywhere in the world.'

He said plans were already under way to extend e-learning degrees across the country as a way of disseminating best practice: 'I have already started working on similar degrees for other specialist areas such as bowel cancer surgery.'