I completely disagree with Simon Britten's comments (letters, pages 22-23, 11 May) regarding the quality of surgical training in the armed forces.
I also started (and completed) my basic surgical training through the armed forces, and felt my exposure to elective and emergency surgery at least the equivalent of my NHS colleagues'.
My training rotated through both service and civilian hospitals. Before and after it I was engaged in general naval service, which gives a wide exposure to life outside a hospital and builds a level of maturity sometimes lacking in NHS practitioners.
I am on a military specialist registrar training rotation in orthopaedic surgery. Selection is through regional postgraduate deans and interview. Some elements of this are based in military units in NHS hospitals and others in numbered slots outside the military environment. My programme is flexible enough to allow a fellowship year abroad, and is not tied to one region: the advantage is that one can work in UK units that will be of most benefit to your final sub-specialty interest.
Higher surgical trainees in the armed forces feel their training programmes are at least the equal of those in the NHS. This is perhaps borne out by the fact that accredited specialists when they leave the armed forces often take up high profile consultant posts.
Yes, there are time bars on leaving the forces, but these are clearly stated when joining and on renewing or changing one's commission. High quality basic and higher professional training programmes are part of the compensation.
Steven Smith Trelawney Hospital Truro