SAS contract negotiations

Find out about the negotiations the BMA has been involved in about the SAS contract and keep up to date with any changes or progression.

Location: UK
Audience: SAS doctors
Updated: Thursday 6 May 2021
Contract and pen article illustration
SAS contract update

Members in Wales and England have voted in favour of the new contract packages for SAS doctors in a recent referendum. We are now working with stakeholders in these nations to assist with the implementation from 1 April 2021.


The contract package for SAS doctors in Northern Ireland has been signed off. BMA SAS members in Northern Ireland are now called to vote in a referendum.


Our referendum guidance below has all the details you need to take part.

New contracts package in Wales, England and Northern Ireland

The BMA has been engaged in contract negotiations with NHS Employer organisations and departments of health and social care of the UK, Welsh and Northern Irish governments, NHS England and NHS Improvement.

In December 2020, negotiations concluded on two contracts – a new Specialty Doctor contract and a Specialist grade contract – for SAS doctors in England, Wales and Northern Ireland.

What are the benefits of the package?

  • Pay deal of 3% investment per year over three years to support contract reform.

  • New senior SAS grade to create a clear career framework and give senior doctors the recognition they deserve.

  • Individual choice for SAS doctors currently on national contracts of whether to move to the new contracts.

  • New safeguards to protect SAS doctors and their work-life balance.

  • Flatter pay scale to better reward SAS doctors throughout their careers and help reduce the gender pay gap.

  • Increased on-call supplements in line with consultants.

  • Guidance for a new SAS advocate role to promote and support SAS doctors’ health and wellbeing.

  • Enhanced pay and provisions for shared parental leave and child bereavement leave.

  • An additional day of annual leave after seven years in the grade in England.
  • Non-recurrent ringfenced funding dedicated to SAS improvement and development available at trust level in England, and at national level in Wales. 

What are the negatives of the contract offer?

Any contract negotiation involves trade-offs, but we think there are only three:

  • The extension of plain time to 7am–9pm on weekdays (currently 7am–7pm on weekdays). This would mean work is paid at standard rates until 9pm. This doesn’t mean a standard day will become longer, but it will be less expensive for employers to schedule work at that time.

  • Changes to the redundancy arrangements in England to bring them in line with the Agenda for Change terms and conditions of service.
  • There is no equivalent right to decline elective work in premium time to the one currently in the associate specialist contract. However, if an AS doctor decides this provision is important to them, they can choose to stay on their existing contract.

If you have any further queries about the proposed contracts, please contact [email protected]


National contract variations

There are some differences between the contract packages for England, Wales and Northern Ireland.

The framework agreements lay out the pay scales for each year of the deal.

Our pay explainers set out the full details of how pay uplifts are applied to your pay journey during the deal period, taking into account changes to the pay scale and incremental progression. 



Northern Ireland

Who will be directly affected by the new contracts?

These new contracts mean that if you are an existing SAS doctor on either the 2008 Specialty Doctor contract, or the closed national 2008 Associate Specialist contract, you will have no changes automatically made to your contract, your pay, or your working arrangements.

Instead, you will have an individual choice. As the majority of our members in England and Wales voted to approve the new contracts, you will still have a six-month window to choose to move to the new contracts or not. Your employer will write to you shortly after 1 April to ask for your expressions of interest.

SAS doctors appointed from 1 April 2021, or anyone who chooses to move employer or takes up a new appointment will be placed in the new contract.

In Northern Ireland, the window of choice will open on 18 May and remain open until 31 October. If you choose to move to the new contract during that time, it will be back paid to 1 April. ​

Is anyone not covered by the contract package?

Only SAS doctors on national contracts are covered by the contract package.

Any doctor who has been appointed to an Associate Specialist post since the grade closed in 2008 will not be on the national contract and do not have an automatic right to be offered a choice about whether or not to move to the new Specialist grade contract. Their employers will have discretion to offer the new contracts.

Other Trust Grade or locally employed doctors will unfortunately not be offered a choice in these negotiations in England and Northern Ireland. From the outset, the DHSC have been clear that their mandate and the funding for contract reform does not cover this group of doctors. 
In Wales, we are working with NHS Wales Employers to explore how locally employed doctors could be offered the new TCS.

Does the multiple year pay deal mean I will get 3% annual uplifts to my pay?

Not necessarily. The funding represents the level of investment being offered for contract reform as a whole, some of which has been focused on making changes to the existing pay scale.

This happens gradually over three years, using temporary transitional pay scales. To reduce from eleven pay points down to five in the Specialty Doctor scale, and to three for the Specialist scale, the overall level of funding is applied differently to different points on the scale. Some pay points receive more than 3% - in some places significantly more, particularly at the bottom of the scale - and others receive less.


The referendum

The contract packages have been signed off in Northern Ireland and we are putting the new contracts to a referendum.

In England and Wales, we held a referendum in March 2021. Although not legally required, we believe the referendum allows democratic decision-making. 

Given the individual choice for SAS doctors on national contracts to move or not to the new contracts, this is a simple majority vote with no minimum turnout required. 

  • All BMA and BDA SAS grade members in Northern Ireland can participate in the referendum. However, this does not include locally employed doctors.
  • In Northern Ireland, the referendum will open on Monday 26 April 2021 and will close on Monday 17 May 2021. 
  • The electronic ballot will be sent to eligible members via email. Look out for an email from our partner Take Part, or check your spam folder if you haven’t received yours.
  • Existing members without a valid email address will receive a letter by post with a voting link.
  • New members must join by Sunday 9 May 2021 to be eligible to vote in this referendum.

We have worked to deliver changes that we feel will improve the working lives of SAS doctors. Please ensure you continue to have your say by using your vote in the referendum.


In Northern Ireland, the results will be announced following the close of voting on Monday 17 May.

Following the close of voting on Monday 1 March 2021, the contract package has been approved by members in Wales. 

Following the close of voting on Monday 15 March 2021, the contract package has also been approved by members in England.


Contract negotiations in Scotland

Following the Scottish Government decision to pursue a Scottish specific reform of the Speciality Doctor grade, the new SAS contract developments in Wales, England and Northern Ireland are not applicable to Scotland. 

After a delay due to the pandemic emergency, formal discussions on the SAS contract reform in Scotland have now resumed between BMA Scottish SAS committee, the Scottish Government and NHS Scotland employers.

Scottish Government officials will now pursue a formal mandate with the Cabinet secretary to allow them to formally enter contract negotiations.

Subject to the mandate being granted, all parties are hopeful to reach a deal by the end of 2021.

Given that there will not be a deal by 1 April 2021, as provisionally agreed in the Heads of Terms for the negotiations, the effective implementation date for a new SAS contract and any backdating, may end up forming part of the new contract negotiations.