What are SAS advocates?
A specialist, associate specialist and specialty doctor advocate is a bridge between SAS colleagues and management, who can be trusted to liaise between the two. It’s a new role that’s been introduced as part of the contract negotiations with BMA Cymru, Welsh Government and NHS Wales Employers.
The need for the role was raised in various surveys, alongside challenges faced by SAS doctors. Reporting to medical directors, a part of the advocate’s job is to promote the profile of SAS doctors, and we now have advocates in each health board in Wales.
Why are they needed in NHS Wales?
Various surveys undertaken by the BMA, AoRCS and the GMC have highlighted SAS doctors’ concerns around being discriminated against and bullied. The GMC referral rate for SAS doctors is also disproportionately high. This needs to stop.
There’s a clear need for an individual who understands the diversity and culture of the SAS community; many of whom are IMGs (international medical graduates).
SAS advocates are a point of contact for SAS doctors who will advocate on their behalf, improve the visibility of SAS doctors in the organisation and be an important contact between SAS doctors and the management team; allowing the organisation to understand the needs of the group.
Ultimately, SAS doctors are an important group in ensuring the smooth running of our health service. They need to be listened to and valued and the SAS advocate is a means for this to happen.
Can you give an example of how advocates have or will support SAS doctors?
The advocate will be a point of contact for all SAS doctors. They’ll have a very good understanding of the needs and issues faced by SAS doctors and support and mediate any disagreements that may take place.
Their role could include assisting with – but isn’t limited to – job planning, wellbeing, mentoring, induction, bullying and harassment, discrimination, complaints and so on.
Can SAS doctors approach their advocate anonymously?
The role of an advocate requires a very strict policy of confidentiality, to ensure SAS doctors are comfortable approaching them and that trust is maintained.
SAS doctors can rest assured that anything they share with their advocate will remain between them unless otherwise agreed.
Is there any advice you’d like to give to your SAS colleagues about utilising SAS advocates in their health board?
The advocate is your true representative at the highest level of management. The advocate role is one of most powerful tools SAS doctors have had at their disposal in past few years, so please make the most of it.
Utilise your advocate. You can find out who yours is on the HEIW website