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When I was in training, the advice given to me was not to become a SAS doctor. For trainees, it’s not thought of as a desirable career option. I did not become a SAS Doctor out of choice. When I lost my training number, I was just happy to have a job. However, in the last few years, my department has given me the opportunity to mature into the experienced and valuable anaesthetist that I now am.
I am a core member of the department and I contribute skills and experience similar to my consultant colleagues. I undertake a variety of additional roles including managing a large multi-contract on-call rota. I have become very proactive with teaching: I am an ALS and APLS instructor and I have recently set up a Central Venous Access course. I have just been asked to become transfer lead for my local area. In my day to day work, I practice independently in lists that traditionally would have only been given to consultants and I also supervise trainees.If trainees do choose to become SAS doctors, I want it to be clear that that’s okay. Many SAS doctors perform the function of a consultant and more needs to be done to align our contracts and provide recognition for the important role we play.
As a staff group, we have historically been treated unfairly, our abilities not recognised - and we have not been given the opportunities that we should have been given. I haven’t personally experienced being treated unfairly as a SAS doctor. I’m lucky, as I have a lot of experience in my department, my colleagues know me very well and I know the right people to speak to. I have, however, seen SAS colleagues being paid for 12 sessions and working 15. It is very common for SAS doctors’ workloads to be very heavy on out of hours work. A lot of SAS doctors don’t receive SPA, despite it being in their job plan. It is a pity that our remuneration is not comparable to our equally experienced colleagues.
I am increasingly getting trainees seeking advice about a career as a SAS doctor. It is possible to have a very satisfying career as a SAS Doctor, provided you work in a supportive and understanding workplace. The advice I want to give to trainees or other SAS doctors: if there’s something you want to do, you can achieve it. It’s all about seeking support and speaking to the right people. Unfortunately, departments can vary hugely in terms of the respect and support given to us.
We need to change the mindset of SAS doctors and other colleagues. A lot of SAS doctors think they’re unable to undertake additional roles, such as becoming educational supervisors, or a lead in a certain area. This is not the case! People need to know that a good SAS doctor can perform the vast majority of roles that consultants do.
I personally think I have been given many more opportunities to do additional activities than when I was a trainee. I have also noticed that when I do a project, I seem to do a better job of it. This boils down to the fact that I love my job and want to improve the service we provide. As a trainee, I felt like I was doing projects to just tick boxes to get to the next stage of training.
I find the term ‘Staff Grade’ a little demeaning. We should be called ‘SAS doctors’. We really are the backbone of the NHS and without us, it would struggle to function. SAS doctors need a genuine chance for career progression and a title recognising our important role.
Times are changing and it appears that the value of our work is really starting to be recognised. Many organisations including the GMC, HEIW, HEE and NHS Employers have produced statements supporting the value of SAS doctors.
You can find out more about the BMA's UK-wide SAS doctor campaign, here and read the welsh charter, here.
Dr Kevin Draper is an Anaesthetics Specialty Doctor at the Royal Gwent Hospital
Good morning. I am also a SAS. Well ceognised, well respected in my Department and supported.
80% agreed with you. If u don't respect urself and recognised our strength, no one change anything for us.
But after all this hard work we want fare salary deal.
My salary is capped since 2010 at top SAS scale. Its frustrating that I could not get higher than that not in terms of financial growth neither career ladder.
I believe in all you say.I feel the that the SAS contract needs to change to give more value to all of us.I work along with my consultant colleagues in all the duties equally shared but with only 1 SPA.When ever I have asked that to be changed ,I am reminded of the Contract.I do get all the support from them ,so never want to put up a fight.I think it is unfair due to the reduced SPA time to do all that everyone else is doing with 2.5 to 3 SPA.