Better careers for SAS doctors

by Lawrence Atkins

The BMA staff, associate specialist and specialty doctors committee is committed to improving the future for its members

Location: UK
Last reviewed: 2 July 2020
Busy hospital with blurred figures moving through a reception area

The BMA began negotiations with representatives from NHS trusts in England and health boards in Wales earlier this year, about introducing a new contract to replace the closed national associate specialist grade and reform of the existing specialty doctor (2008) contract.

These negotiations originally applied to all staff, associate specialist and specialty doctors and dentists employed on national terms and conditions of service in England and Wales, but in recent weeks our colleagues from Northern Ireland have joined our conversations and we’re glad to have them with us. Scottish representatives are conducting separate negotiations, but we remain in close contact with them throughout.

The NHS negotiating team includes staff from the Department of Health and Social Care, Welsh Government, NHS England, NHS Improvement, NHS Employers and the Department of Health (Northern Ireland). The BMA team consists of members of the UK SAS committee, supported by BMA pay and conditions staff. Even during the COVID-19 lockdown, we continue to meet every two to four weeks, only now we’re learning the joys of Microsoft Teams and communicating virtually.

The scope of these negotiations includes reform of the current specialty doctor contract (2008) and the introduction of a new senior grade (title yet to be agreed) that will replace the closed associate specialist grade. It is intended that any joint proposals for revised terms and conditions will come into effect from April 2021.

Through reform, the intention is to attract and retain SAS doctors/dentists and create contracts that are attractive for employers to adopt, offering fulfilling careers with opportunity for progression.

Further aims of reform include:

  • The opening of a national senior grade to improve career progression for senior and experienced doctors/dentists
  • Providing the opportunity for expertise, gained outside of the formal training pathway, to be recognised and thereby offering flexible career progression
  • Improving morale of SAS doctors/dentists by appropriately recognising and rewarding SAS skills and experience
  • Modernise contracts to facilitate the provision of high-quality care that meets the needs of patients.

Now both sides have received their mandates for negotiations, the joint heads of terms have been developed and sets out where both parties believe there is scope for reaching an agreement.

The joint heads of is due to be signed off shortly and will be published and made publicly available. Negotiations have already commenced on the individual schedules that make up the contract.

The specific content of the discussions of course, remains confidential but we will keep you updated as frequently as we are able.

Lawrence Atkins is leader of the SAS contract negotiations team