New Scottish SAS contracts

Learn more about the new contract offer for SAS doctors in Scotland.

Location: Scotland
Audience: SAS doctors
Updated: Tuesday 30 May 2023
Contract and pen article illustration

Important update – deadline to conclude job planning extended to 31 July

The deadline for job planning and offers for the new SAS contracts is set at 31 May.  Some Boards are struggling to achieve this deadline and as a result  MSG (management steering group, NHS Scotland employers) have issued an instruction to Boards this week that the deadline can be extended to 31 July.

Schedule 24 Para 12 of the new Specialty Doctor contract already allows for extension in the case of absence due to, for example caring or sick leave.  It also establishes the principle of fair and equal treatment with no detriment suffered as a result.  This principle can be extended into cases where there has been a delay in concluding the job planning/job offer process where the Board has been unable to meet the original deadline. 

In line with the above principle it will be open to NHS Boards to give more than six months back dating where there has been a delay in concluding the job planning process attributable to the Board, rather than the individual doctor, as long as the backdating period commences no earlier than 1st October 2022.  Where any delay is attributable to inaction on the part of an individual doctor the maximum backdating period will remain at six months, regardless of the date the job planning/offer process concludes.

As set out in the agreed terms and conditions, backdating is not available to doctors who did not express interest by 6 January 2023.  

For example, where the doctor has expressed an interest by 6 Jan 2023, but job planning is not concluded until 30 June  and the delay in concluding is attributable to pressures of work in the employing Board, then the doctor would be entitled to backdating to 1 Dec 2022 (6 months - as if concluded by 31 May) PLUS one additional month (so effectively 1 Nov) to account for the delay.  If delayed until 31 July then it would 2 additional months (so effectively to 1 Oct). 

If you need assistance or further advice then please contact our advisers on 0300 123 1233 or by email on [email protected]


About the new contract

For the past year, BMA Scotland has been negotiating with the Management Steering Group (MSG) on new contracts for SAS doctors in Scotland. MSG is the body responsible for negotiating terms and conditions of service on behalf of the Scottish Government and NHS Scotland employers.

These negotiations have now concluded with MSG presenting a ‘full and final’ offer on a contract package which comprises a revised Specialty Doctor (2022) contract and the introduction of a new Specialist (2022) grade.

The BMA’s Scottish SAS Committee (SSASC) agreed to put this package to a referendum of SAS members in Scotland. The referendum ran from 31 October to 18 November and 93% voted in favour. The SSASC met and endorsed the decision of members

Set out below is a summary of the key points of MSG’s offer including the full and final versions of the Terms and Conditions of Service for both grades.


How we got here

SSASC has been lobbying MSG for a number of years on the need for the re-introduction of a higher SAS grade following the closure of the Associate Specialist grade back in 2008. We have also repeatedly highlighted to MSG the impact of low pay and slow pay progression on SAS recruitment and retention.

When negotiations on new SAS contracts began elsewhere in the UK, we agreed with the Scottish Government’s decision that Scotland would not take part and that we would instead seek a distinctive Scottish solution. Unfortunately, a mandate from the Cabinet Secretary for Health & Social Care for MSG to enter Scottish-level negotiations was subsequently inevitably delayed first by the Scottish Government’s focus on the COVID pandemic response and then by the Scottish Parliament elections. Negotiations finally began in August last year.

Since then, the SSASC negotiating team has been engaged in intensive negotiations with MSG, which have now resulted in the “full and final” offer that SSASC has agreed to put to a referendum of BMA members.

In reaching this outcome, SSASC has sought to both build upon the successes of the new contracts agreed elsewhere in the UK, such as the introduction of the new Specialist grade, and also to improve on the offer in those nations, particularly around basic pay and out-of-hours working, to recognise the specific Scottish healthcare landscape and the challenges it poses. As a result, while there are some similarities between MSG’s contract offer in Scotland and the new contracts now in force elsewhere in the UK, there are also some significant differences.


Key features of the new contract offer

  • The creation of a new grade of “Specialist”, providing a potential route for career progression for experienced Specialty Doctors. However, these posts will be created by NHS Boards solely in response to workforce need and will be subject to open recruitment processes. As in the rest of the UK, while existing Associate Specialists who meet the entry criteria will if they wish be able to transfer to the Specialist grade as part of transitional arrangements, we were not able to secure any mechanism for Specialty Doctors to do the same, either during transition or on an ongoing basis, eg via personal regrading – despite pushing the negotiations as far as we could.
  • A 21.5% increase in the starting salary (to £54,903) for those doctors on the new Specialty Doctor contract, faster progression through the pay scale (reduced from 17 to 12 years), and a 1.5% increase to the salary at the top of the scale (to £85,554), when compared to the current contract. The pay scale for those on the new Specialist grade will run from £83,130 to £94,350. This means that salaries for doctors in Scotland on the new Specialty Doctor and Specialist contracts will be the highest in the UK. See the full pay scales for the new Specialty Doctor contract and new specialist grade here.
  • Those doctors who choose to transfer to the new Specialty Doctor contract grade will receive an additional salary uplift over and above the current 2022/23 DDRB award made to those who decide to remain on the current contract. This additional uplift will average 6% across the pay scale, ranging from 1.5% for those currently at the top of the Specialty Doctor pay scale to 21.5% for those currently on the first pay point. The offer is for a one year deal only; the annual pay uplift for next year ie 2023/24, will be determined through the usual arrangements.
  • Backpay of up to 6 months for those doctors who transfer to the new Specialty Doctor contract in line with the new contract transfer provisions.
  • Improved recognition of previous relevant experience when determining starting salaries on appointment for doctors on the new grades.
  • An increase in out of hours availability supplements for on-call work, aligning them with those for consultants.
  • The retention of core hours at 7am–7pm, Monday to Friday in line with current provisions, avoiding the extension of plain time working to 9pm during the week which now applies in the rest of the UK.
  • New work-life balance safeguards, including (unless by mutual agreement between the doctor and their NHS Board) a limit of 40% of total work to be undertaken out-of-hours, and job plans that do not require a doctor to work more than 13 weekends a year. Transitional arrangements will apply to current SAS doctors transferring to the new Specialty Doctor contract.
  • New limits on shift-working, including the maximum number of consecutive shifts and the minimum rest period after a run of night shifts to bring them into line with provisions that already apply to junior doctors in Scotland.
  • All Job Plans under the new contracts to include a clearly identified and specific SPA (Supporting Professional Activities) allocation sufficient to enable the doctor to undertake job planning and to meet the requirements for appraisal and revalidation, set at a minimum 1.0 PA for doctors working more than 5 PAs, 0.5 PA for those working more than 2 but fewer than 5 PAs, and 0.25 PA for those working 2 or less in total.
  • A revision to the process for job plan mediation and appeals, bringing it into step with the Consultant process, allowing two stages of mediation where required and tightening the position in respect of backdated payment for any changes in the job plan.
  • Provision for Waiting List Initiative work to be remunerated at 2x the top of the scale for doctors on the new contracts.
  • Clarity that short-term cover for colleagues’ unexpected absence should be remunerated and on the rates that should apply, plus agreement that the rates for cover beyond the first 72 hours will be agreed locally.
  • New provisions to allow Specialty Doctors to ‘act up’ as Specialists or Consultants.
  • Changes to the current provisions around ‘spare professional capacity’, removing the requirement for those undertaking private practice to offer up an EPA or else risk losing pay progression. Also, unlike in the rest of the UK, no ‘strong encouragement’ provision for those doctors intending to undertake locum work to offer their services via an NHS staff bank.

What happens next

SSASC will work with MSG to ensure the contracts are implemented as soon as possible. This will involve NHS Boards writing to their SAS doctors to invite individual expressions of interest in transferring to the new Specialty Doctor (2022) contract or, for current Associate Specialists only, to transfer to the Specialist contract. There would be no requirement to move across to the new contract, and you would be free to remain on your current contract, although in order to secure the maximum 6 months of backpay offered under the transfer arrangements, you would need to have expressed an interest in transferring on or before 6 January 2023. A period of job planning would then follow which would result in a formal offer of transfer to the new contract being issued. You may then accept this and move across to the new contract, or else reject it and remain on your existing contract. It will remain open to existing doctors to transfer to the new contract at a later time, but no backpay will apply if this is the case.

Pay scales for the proposed new contracts

The 2022/23 pay scales for the offer are set out below. Doctors will normally be expected to spend 3 years on each pay point and have met the relevant pay progression criteria before moving to the next pay point.

Scale point (current contract) Pay point (proposed new contract) 2022/23 proposed new SD contract 2022/23 current SD contract
0 1 £54,903 £45,193
1 £54,903 £49,057
2 £54,903 £54,080
3 2 £65,497 £56,772
4 £65,497 £60,651
5 £65,497 £64,516
6 3 £69,507 £64,516
7 £69,507 £68,466
8 £69,507 £68,466
9 4 £77,532 £72,418
10 £77,532 £72,418
11 £77,532 £76,370
12 5 £85,554 £76,370
13 £85,554 £76,370
14 £85,554 £80,321
15 £85,554 £80,321
16 £85,554 £80,321
17 £85,554 £84,272
Scale point Pay point 2022/23 specialist grade
0 1 £83,130
1 £83,130
2 £83,130
3 2 £88,740
4 £88,740
5 £88,740
6 3 £94,350