We have developed a list of 281 competencies deemed to be of importance in the training of orthopaedic surgeons. A stratified, randomised selection of non-university orthopaedic surgeons rated each individual item on a scale 1 to 4 of increasing importance. Summary statistics across all respondents were given. The mean scores and sds were computed. Secondary analyses were computed in general orthopaedics, paediatrics, trauma and adult reconstruction. Of the 156 orthopaedic surgeons approached 131 (84%) responded to the questionnaire. They rated 240 of the 281 items greater than 3.0 suggesting that competence in these was necessary by completion of training. Complex procedures were rated to be less important. The structure, delivery and implementation of the curriculum needs further study. Learning activities are 'driven' by the evaluation of competencies and thus competency-based learning may soon be in the forefront of training programmes.