BACKGROUND: The report Better Carefor the Severely Injured [London: The Royal College of Surgeons of England and the British Orthopaedic Association; 2000] states that an experienced general surgeon trained in the techniques required to perform life-saving emergency surgery is vital in the management of major trauma. The experience and training of general surgeons in the UK in the management of trauma to the abdomen, thorax and major vessels has never been assessed. METHOD: Postal questionnaire sent to UK general surgical consultants and Higher Surgical Trainees (HSTs). RESULTS: A total of 854 (48%) questionnaires were completed. Of respondents, 85% believe that major trauma should be directed to hospitals that provide a dedicated trauma service. Of non-vascular specialists, 43% felt their training was adequate to manage vascular trauma and only one-third of general surgical consultants felt adequately prepared to manage acute cardiothoracic injuries. The median number of trauma laparotomies undertaken annually was 2 for blunt injury and 1 for penetrating injury. Of HSTs, 21% had not performed a splenectomy for trauma and 44% had no experience of packing for liver injuries. CONCLUSIONS: There is limited experience and training in the surgical management of torso trauma in the UK. Implementation of the recommendations from Better Care for the Severely Injured will be hampered unless steps are taken to maximise experience and improve training.