Journal of Surgical Simulation 2022; 9: 42 - 48

Published: 14 June 2022


Original article

The educational value of the cancer multidisciplinary meeting: another COVID-19 pandemic casualty

Steven Dixon, Oroog Ali and Rikesh Patel
Corresponding author: Steven Dixon, St Helens and Knowsley Trust, Warrington Road, Prescot, L35 5DR, UK. Email:


Background: The COVID-19 pandemic has had a significant impact on the training of medical staff across all specialities. The impact of the pandemic on the educational experience of the weekly cancer multidisciplinary team (MDT) meeting is unclear. The aim of the study was to determine if the pandemic altered the MDT learning experience for trainees, if so how, and what practical barriers result in a negative experience.

Methods: An anonymous online survey was designed via the platform and distributed to general surgery, pathology, oncology and radiology trainees throughout the UK. Distribution was via trainee forums, email groups and social media channels. The survey was open for completion between 1 March 2021 and 31 March 2021.

Results: There were 138 respondents across the training specialities; pathology and surgical trainees accounted for 47.8% and 40.6%, respectively. The grades of the respondents ranged from CT1 to ST8. Before the pandemic, > 50% of trainees were attending one MDT per week; most of these were face to face solely (73.9%). Almost 90% of participants agreed that the pre-pandemic MDT educational experience was positive. However, after the onset of the pandemic, attendance by most of the respondents dropped to less than once per month and participation became virtual alone in 62.3% and combined face to face and virtual in 37.7%. The trainee role in the MDT changed; 79.7% were observing only and only 59.4% agreed that the educational experience was positive. Barriers cited to attending included 33.3% of trainees being turned away and 24.6% made to feel unwelcome. Other difficulties encountered included insufficient room capacity (29.2%), inadequate technology (29.2%), being occupied with COVID related clinical commitments (10.6%) and redeployed to another department (8.8%).

Discussion: There is overall loss of trainees’ educational experience of the MDT in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. Trainees are attending fewer MDTs and in a significant number of cases, they feel unwelcome or are turned away. Common barriers to learning include inadequate infrastructure with space and technology and increased workload. During COVID recovery, recognizing the importance of trainee participation in the MDT is vital and should be supported through technology support and simulated MDT training sessions.


multidisciplinary team; COVID-19; surgical education; cancer care