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To compare the results of capture-recapture estimates and exhaustive follow-up in identifying the percentage of UK medical graduates who subsequently worked in the British National Health Service (NHS).Postal questionnaire survey of all UK-trained doctors who graduated in 1974, with up to three reminders sent to non-respondents. Further exhaustive tracing of non-respondents to obtain whole population estimates of numbers in the NHS. Capture-recapture estimation of numbers working in the NHS, using survey data and Department of Health employment records, for comparison with results from exhaustive tracing.A total of 85.3% (1460/1712) of respondents were working in the NHS, but further exhaustive tracing of non-respondents revealed that only 75.9% (1758/2317) to 79.2% (1835/2317) of the whole cohort were in the NHS. By comparison, capture-recapture analysis estimated that 76.9% (1781/2317) of the cohort were in the NHS (95% CI: 75.9% to 78.0%).Survey data alone overestimated the percentage of the whole cohort in the NHS. Capture-recapture estimates were very similar to those obtained by exhaustive tracing but were obtained more quickly and for much less clerical effort.

Original publication




Journal article


Journal of health services research & policy

Publication Date





234 - 236


UK Medical Careers Research Group, Unit of Health-Care Epidemiology, University of Oxford, Old Road, Oxford OX3 7LF, UK.


Humans, Data Collection, Physicians, Employment, State Medicine, Female, Male, United Kingdom