Six reasons why should you choose to train in Severn Postgraduate Medical Education

Just like undergraduate courses not all postgraduate training programs delivery the same quality of training. The question faced by the Foundation Doctor applying to Specialty Training programs is, what criteria should I use to differentiate one Training Program from another?

The strengths of any training program can be judged by looking at the following features of the training;


Reason One: The Training Units in Severn 

The Bristol Eye Hospital is the tertiary referral centre for the South West of England and the Academic Unit, led by Professor Andrew Dick, has an international reputation in the field of ocular inflammation and translational research. All trainees will spend 3-4 years at the BEH during their ST3-7 years and will have a choice of Trainee Selected Components (formerly ASTOs) in any of the five sub-specialties, during their ST6 or ST7 year.

Severn Postgraduate Medical Education (PGME) was ranked number 1 in the UK for 'Overall Trainee Satisfaction' in the 2014 GMC Trainee Survey with a score of 94%. The second ranked Postgraduate Medical Education Centre was 86%.

The first two years of the rotation will be spent in two of the following three units; Cheltenham General Hospital, the Royal United Hospital in Bath and the Great Western Hospital in Swindon. All are easily commutable from Bristol, if trainees wish to base themselves in Bristol for the duration of their training. In all three units ST1 trainees are given a tailored induction timetable, which allows them to find their feet in clinics, working under the close supervision of senior trainees and consultants.

Please click here to watch a video of a trainee talking about his time in Cheltenham and the Bristol Eye Hospital.

Reason Two: Teaching 

Surgical Training

Severn PGME has two EyeSi virtual reality simulators, one in the Bristol Eye Hospital and on in Cheltenham.  The Bristol EyeSi has the additional vitreo-retinal training modules as well as the cataract modules and will mean all aspiring VR surgeons will have open access to this VR simulator.  To our knowledge Severn are the only PGME in the UK who has two EyeSI simulators.  In 2015 the EyeSi in Cheltenham will be upgraded to include the VR modules. Trainees from all of our four hospitals have easy access to these simulators and in the first six months of their ST1 year have a specific training programme to complete on the EyeSi.

In June 2014 a team of consultants from Severn PGME launched the Simulated Ocular Surgery website.  This website demonstrates why and how simulation training should and could be implemented into every training programme.  The techniques described in the website are currently being adopted not only in the UK but across Europe and the US.

It is hoped this website will be at the forefront of advancing safety and efficacy of surgical training across the globe. 

Trainees from Severn PGME have made a huge contribution to the production of the website (see Miranda Buckle's Trainee perspective video) and it is envisaged our trainees will be instrumental in adding more content to the website in the years ahead.

The adoption of these techniques  across the subspecialties of Ophthalmology will significantly improve the quality of surgical training in Severn PGME as well as the number of cases trainees get to perform.

The RCOphth stipulate trainees should perform 50 cases in the first 2 years of training.  Our current trainees have performed an average of 132 cataract extractions during their ST1-2 training with a range of 72-241 cases.

Clinical Teaching Program

There is a formal Friday afternoon teaching program in Bristol and in Cheltenham and on the 3rd Friday of each month, there is an all-day program hosted by one subspecialty, details of the programme are available on the Regional Teaching Programme page

These days are a mixture of clinical case, small group teaching and surgical tuition on the model eyes.

Each year we host a joint teaching day with Peninsula PGME. In June 2014 this was an International Ophthalmology day, held at the Bristol Zoo. This day was organised by Will Dean, one of our current ST5 trainees, who is a world authority on SICS cataract surgery training. This featured a diverse range of  presentations on practicing ophthalmology in Africa, the Middle east and Asia. There was also a dry-lab session for Sutureless Small Incision Cataract (SICS) surgery, using the simulated ocular surgery model eyes. 

In January 2015 we will install an Indirect Ophthalmoscope Simulator into the Cheltenham Simulation suite, making Severn PGME the first in the UK to purchase this type of simulator. Indirect ophthalmoscopy is a skill which many trainees find difficult to master and this simulator, manufactured by VR Magic who make the EyeSi, provides an interactive and versatile platform to practice this skill.

Reason Three: Research Opportunities

We actively encourage our trainees to get involved with research projects within the deanery. We currently have 2 ACFs and 2 ACLs, but there are ample opportunities for STs  to conduct innovative research during the course of their training.

Rob Johnston, who is a VR consultant in Cheltenham, is also the creator of Medisoft, the most widely used ophthalmology electronic patient record in the UK. The huge Medisoft database has facilitated the publication of over 30 papers on cataract surgery, medical retina treatments and glaucoma, many of which have been instigated by our trainees. 

In 2014 our trainees (we only have 19 in the deanery) had the following presentations and  posters at prestigious International and National meetings:







World Congress Tokyo



RCOphth Annual Congress



Oxford Congress












Other International meetings



Trainees published 8 peer reviewed papers, including two first author papers  in IOVS and one in Nature Biotechnology.

Will Dean won the AAO prize for the most useful resource on the AAO  Global Networks,  for his Sutureless ECCE video.

Reason Four: Quality Assurance Processes in the Severn Deanery 

The Severn Deanery was one of the first UK deaneries to set up Quality Panels in their Schools (2009). The Ophthalmology Quality Panel is made up of the Head of School, a College Tutor, a Lay Chair and at least 3 Trainee representatives, ranging from ST1-7, who between them have worked in all 4 units during the course of that year. These trainees will have contacted all the trainees in their units asking them if they have any concerns about any aspects of their training. If they have, this information can be passed onto the Quality Panel (anonymously if the trainee wishes). The Panel then triangulates the trainees’ feedback , with information from the ARCPs and GMC trainee survey. The quality of training on each firm, is then discussed by the panel and is given a grade. If there are areas that need to be addressed, the Head of School raises these with the College Tutor in the relevant unit and sets in place an action plan to rectify the situation. To watch a video of one of our trainees discussing Quality Panels click this link

Reason Five: FRCOphth examinations 

Part I FRCOphth

All trainees must have passed the Part 1 FRCOphth before they commence their ST3 year. John Ferris, the current Head of School, is the author of Basic Sciences in Ophthalmology, which is the universally used revision text for this exam. He also lectures on the Institute of Ophthalmology Basic Science course and is therefore well positioned to guide trainees who are preparing for this examination.

Part II FRCOphth

This examination has been running for five years now and only one of our trainees have failed to pass the clinical examination at their first attemp.. Although most of this success can be attributed to the hard work of our trainees, the clinical teaching and mock vivas / clinical cases in the lead up to the exam, enabled them to approach this exam with confidence.

Reason Six: Fellowship placements and Consultant posts 

The training we provide in Severn PGME, alongside the opportunities to become involved with high quality research projects, means that our trainees are in a good position to apply for  prestigious Fellowships in the UK, US and Australia. This in turn puts them competitive when applying for sought after consultant positions.

The list below indicates the Fellowships and Consultant positions of our recent trainees.

  • Michael Wertheim – Paediatric Fellowship Perth, Western Australia 2009 / Consultant Ophthalmologist in Perth 2010
  • Philip Jaycock – Corneal & Refractive Fellowship Moorfields 2009 / Consultant Ophthalmologist Bristol Eye Hospital 2010
  • Cheryl Lee – VR Fellowship Bristol Eye Hospital 2009 / Consultant Ophthalmologist Singapore
  • Daniel Nygen – Glaucoma Fellowship Perth, Western Australia 2009 / Consultant Ophthalmologist Perth 2010
  • Julia Escardo_Patten – Paediatric Fellowship Auckland, New Zealand 2009-10/ Consultant Newport 2011
  • Petros Aristometriou – VR Fellowship Bristol Eye Hospital 2010 / Consultant Ophthalmologist Cyprus 2011
  • Brinda Muthusamy – Paediatric & Motility Fellowship The John Hopkins Hospital, Baltimore 2011-13 Consultant Paediatric Ophthalmologist – Neuro-ophthalmologist Addenbrooke’s Hospital Cambridge 2013
  • Stephanie West – Paediatric Fellowship The Hospital for Sick Children, Toronto 2011, Paediatric and Strabismus Fellow Moorfields Eye Hospital 2012-13,Consultant Paediatric Ophthalmologist – Southampton University Hospital 2014
  • Branka Marjanovic – Oculoplastic Fellowship Moorfields Eye Hospital 2012, Consultant Oculoplastic Moorfields Eye Hospital 2013
  • Jonathan Goodfellow – Glaucoma Fellowship, The Royal Victoria Eye and Ear Hospital, Melbourne 2012.  Consultant Ophthalmologist Torbay
  • Nathaniel Knox-Cartwright – Corneal Fellowship Sydney Eye and Ear Hospital 2012-13, Consultant Ophthalmologist (Anterior Segment) - Royal Devon and Exeter Hospital 2013
  • Adam Ross – Medical Retina Fellowship – New York Eye and Ear Hospital 2013, Consultant Ophthalmologist (Medical Retina) Bristol Eye Hospital  2013
  • Marten Brelen – VR Fellowship Bristol Eye Hospital / Associate Professor of Vitreo-retinal surgery Hong Kong 2013