SAS doctor

Last updated:

SAS doctors: bullied and burnt out


Bullying, burnout and lack of support in the workplace were among the concerns highlighted by staff, associate specialist and specialty doctors in a survey by the GMC.

Two-thirds of SAS doctors bullied in their workplace did not report the incident while one in 10 said they did not know how to raise a complaint according to a workplace experiences survey of SAS doctors and locally employed doctors.

Initial findings from the survey, which is the first ever conducted by the GMC for this branch of practice, have been published today. They also reveal that a quarter of SAS doctors disagreed that their workplace environment was a fully supportive one, while more than a third felt they were not always fairly treated.

The study, which surveyed more than 6,000 SAS and locally employed doctors between May and June last year, revealed significant concerns around burnout, with a quarter of SAS doctors reporting feeling burnt out ‘to a high or very high degree’ by their jobs.


Slow take-up

The findings also reveal that only around one third of SAS doctors reported that their employer had taken steps to implement the SAS Charter, aimed at improving the workplace and professional experiences of SAS doctors.

Commenting on the report’s findings, BMA staff, associate specialists and specialty doctors committee co-chair Amit Kochhar (pictured below) expressed his regret that many members of his grade continued to feel marginalised and overlooked in their careers and workplaces.

He said: ‘Specialty and associate specialist and locally employed doctors are vital to our NHS, which is why it’s crucial that they, like any other member of staff, feel supported and valued as they carry out their life-saving work.

Amit Kochhar BMA council comittee member 2014

‘These doctors have long felt overlooked, so it’s disappointing to see this theme re-emerge in this latest survey – particularly that more than a quarter of SAS colleagues disagreed or strongly disagreed that their working environment is a fully supportive one.

‘In 2014, the BMA, along with NHS Employers, Health Education England, and the Academy of Medical Royal Colleges, published the SAS charter, dedicated to providing greater development and working opportunities for SAS doctors.

‘While many employers recognise the charter and the needs of this important part of the workforce, today’s survey has made clear that more needs to be done to ensure all SAS and locally employed doctors are properly listened to, appreciated, and above all, valued – regardless of where they work.’


Access to training

More positive findings from the survey included the numbers of SAS doctors reporting access to training, with 71 per cent saying they received the opportunity to maintain their skills, with 54 per cent saying they could access training designed to advance their careers.

95 per cent of SAS doctors said they were involved in activities additional to their work, including auditing (25 per cent), teaching (20 per cent) and clinical governance (11 per cent).

However, fewer than 5 per cent of SAS doctors responding to the survey said that they were involved in activities such as research, appraisal of other doctors, service management or planning or running a department.

GMC chief executive Charlie Massey (pictured below) said that he hoped the findings of the survey could be used to inform further investigation and development towards improving the support available to SAS and locally employed staff.

He said: ‘SAS and locally employed doctors are a vital part of the UK’s healthcare workforce. Like all doctors they need and deserve working environments that are fully supportive, to maximise their potential to deliver good care to patients.

Charlie Massey, GMC Chief Executive

‘We know from the recent Fair to refer? report, by Roger Kline and Doyin Atewologun, that poor support and isolation are factors in the disproportionate referrals of BAME (black and minority ethnic) doctors to the GMC for fitness-to-practise concerns. Nearly two-thirds of SAS and locally employed doctors are from BAME backgrounds.

'We’re now working with others to explore our findings in more detail. We will use the results to help strengthen the support that is already available, and to identify where more can be done to address the issues raised.’

More information on the SAS Charter and how to work with employers to implement it

Read more from Tim Tonkin and follow on Twitter.