Blog post

The importance of advocacy: introducing the new SAS advocate role

Dr Rob Fleming describes the benefits of the SAS advocate role for the individual and organisation.

13 October 2022

Authors

  • Dr Rob Fleming
    Dr Rob Fleming Sherwood Forest Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, Specialty Doctor (SAS) Anaesthetist and SAS advocate

Over the last decade, there have been several landmark documents published in the UK relating to the SAS workforce. These include the SAS charter, the SAS doctor development guide and the document Maximising the potential, published by health education England (HEE) and NHS Improvement, that details the essential measures needed to support SAS doctors.

There have also been a number of other papers released by the Academy of Medical Royal Colleges (AoMRC) on many aspects of SAS development, career progression and opportunities. Many of these will be shared this week during SAS week.  

However, despite these publications, the typical SAS doctor may be forgiven for not having noticed a change in the nature of their role, or in the opportunities offered to them. This too is described well by an AoMRC article called The SAS Workforce: rhetoric vs reality, that speaks frankly about how the latter does not yet always match the former. Changing the culture associated with SAS roles requires more than just documents, it requires voices. 

Perhaps in reflection of this, the 2021 SAS contract reform introduced the SAS advocate role, a new strategic role to support SAS doctors. The advocate role joins existing SAS tutors, and representatives on trust local negotiating committees, as a third pillar of support for SAS doctors within an organisation. It is hoped that the SAS advocate will support the health and wellbeing of the SAS workforce, addressing some of the findings of the 2019 General Medical Council’s survey of SAS and locally employed doctors, and the 2020 AoMRC article, Wellbeing of the SAS Workforce. These include themes surrounding career development, extended non-clinical roles, autonomous working, recognition and reward. 

Employers that create SAS advocates are demonstrating a desire to be organisations in which SAS doctors can thrive. This should pay dividends in recruitment and retention, and allow SAS doctors to reach their individual potential, making the workforce more fit to meet the demands of the future. If every doctor has the opportunity to reach and work at their individual potential, this benefits the doctor, the services they work in, and the patients they care for.  

Having someone within the organisation who is a voice and a point of contact for all its SAS doctors should also increase engagement and sense of belonging. This will hopefully make these doctors happier in their work, reducing attrition and increasing productivity. Recognising this, many organisations have already created SAS advocates, and many of these advocates have now joined together in an advocate network. This should ensure examples of good practice can be shared between organisations, as well as within organisations. 

If you have an example of good employers practice to share, around the SAS advocate role being introduced in your organisation, please get in touch with us, doctorsanddentists@nhsemployers.org 

SAS advocate role infographic