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.


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 based in the Bristol Eye Hospital and other in Cheltenham.  The Bristol EyeSi has the additional vitreo-retinal training modules as well as the cataract modules which will enables all aspiring VR surgeons to have open access to this VR simulator.  To our knowledge Severn is the only PGME in the UK to have two EyeSI simulators.  In 2015 the EyeSi in Cheltenham was 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 a Trainee's 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 sub-specialties 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 sub-specialty. 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 PGME. We currently have 2 ACFs and 2 ACLs, but there are ample opportunities for trainees 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.

One of our trainees 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 pass the Part 1 FRCOphth before they commence their ST3 year. Dr John Ferris, one of our leading consultants who is also the Royal College of Ophthalmology Surgical Skills Faculty Lead, 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 ten years now. 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 enables them to be competitive when applying for sought after consultant positions.