Background: The process of training surgeons in technique for resection of colorectal cancer should not compromise patient care or outcomes. The aim of this study was to compare morbidity, mortality and survival rates after resection performed by trainees with those for a consultant surgeon. Methods: Outcomes for 150 patients operated on by a single colorectal surgeon at a private hospital were compared with those of 344 patients admitted under the same surgeon and operated on by closely supervised trainee surgeons in a public teaching hospital between 1995 and 2002. Results: Co-morbidity was significantly more common in patients operated on by trainees; their American Society of Anesthesiologists grades were higher and tumours were more advanced. Of 16 postoperative complications evaluated, only respiratory and cardiac problems were significantly more common in patients operated on by trainees. There was no difference in operative mortality, local recurrence or 2-year survival rate after adjustment for age and tumour stage. Conclusion: Outcomes after resection for colorectal cancer did not differ between the consultant and trainees in the context of a closely supervised training programme.