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: Friday 30 July 2021
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SAS contracts update

Members in England, Northern Ireland and Wales 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 of the new contracts.


Read our guidance below to check how the new contracts will affect you and download the national contract agreements. 

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. These were put to a referendum of members in each of the three nations.

Referendum results

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.

Following the close of voting on Monday 17 May, the contract package has been approved by members in Northern Ireland.

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.

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.

Next steps

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, Northern Ireland 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 to ask for your expressions of interest. In England and Wales, this will take place after 1 April 2021 and the window will remain open until 30 September 2021. In Northern Ireland, the window of opportunity will open on 18 May and remain open until 31 October 2021. If you choose to move to the new contract during that time, it will be back paid to 1 April. 

If your employer has not written to you shortly after the above dates, you should raise this with your employer and your local industrial relations officer.

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

Implications for the specialist grade

Individuals who are at the top of the pay scale on the existing AS (associate specialist) contract will need to carefully consider whether they wish to move to the new specialist contract:

  • Over the short term, there may not be a financial benefit to moving to the new contract, although those at the top of the current AS scale choosing to move across will have their pay protected on a mark-time basis. If you choose not to transfer to the new specialist contract, you will not benefit from other aspects of the contract, such as the new safeguards or the increased on-call availability supplements. You will have to consider these features carefully and make the right decision for you.
  • We are aware that there are specific pensions implications for doctors whose pay is frozen in terms of the contributions made by them and their employer. Associate specialists currently at the top of the pay scale who choose to transfer to the specialist grade will be receiving mark-time pay protection. This means that their pay would remain unchanged until the top of the specialist grade is uplifted in future to match or exceed their protected pay. Aside from the changes to basic pay, there are no changes in the contract to which elements of pay are pensionable. We recommend that you get in touch with our Pensions team to discuss the possible impact on your pension that entering into such pay protection arrangements could have.
  • The specialist grade is a new contract, and specialty doctors will not have any automatic right to progress from their current grade into the new specialist grade. Read our guidance on the new specialist grade and how to demonstrate a workforce need.

If you have any further queries about the proposed contracts, please contact us.


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Moving onto the 2021 SAS contract?


Ensure you are recording your work activities correctly on our job planning tool Dr Diary.

Simply confirm your new contract in the employer selection.

Update your contract in Dr Diary

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

Read the full national contracts


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. 

Scottish Government officials have now received a formal mandate from the Cabinet secretary to allow them to formally enter contract negotiations.

The aim is to reach a deal by the end of 2021.

Given that a deal was not agreed 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.