SAS development

Group of hospital staff

Specialty and associate specialist (SAS) doctors and dentists are a diverse group with a wide range of skills, experience, and specialties.

They work as staff grade doctors, associate specialists, specialty doctors, hospital practitioners, clinical assistants, senior clinical medical officers and clinical medical officers. Ensuring that SAS doctors receive effective development benefits patient safety and employers, as well as the individual doctor. Good patient experience is strongly associated with a motivated and engaged workforce where every individual has the opportunity to work at their full potential.

Investing in development is a step to achieving that which will inevitably better equip these doctors to meet the needs of the service and improve patient care.

SAS doctor development guide

The SAS doctor development guide was produced in partnership with the British Medical Association (BMA), Health Education England (HEE), the Academy of Medical Royal Colleges and NHS Employers in February 2017. It aims to make sure that this important group of doctors remain fit to practice and develop in their careers.

The four partners worked in partnership in early 2015 to run a survey about SAS doctor development and deliver four regional workshops. The development guide addresses the issues raised in the survey and workshops, and describes actions that can be taken to ensure that best practice is applied in the development of SAS doctors and dentists, and how different groups can work together to ensure the principles are consistently applied.

Improving SAS appraisal guide

The Improving SAS appraisal guide aims to support employers to ensure that their SAS employees are able to engage fully with the appraisal process. It includes practical advice based on feedback, ideas and experience from SAS doctors themselves. It also sets out the steps that employers can take to acknowledge and develop SAS doctors’ skills.

Maximising the potential: essential measures to support SAS doctors

The HEE and NHS Improvement (NHSI) March 2019 report Maximising the potential: essential measures to support SAS doctors sets out measures to give SAS doctors access to improved support and better development opportunities. SAS doctors make up 20 percent of the medical workforce but many say they lack workplace support, find it hard to move between specialties, have limited access to training and some have reported bullying.

Through implementation of the shared commitments in the report, HEE along with NHSI, NHS Employers and other partners will work together to improve opportunities for SAS doctors to advance as clinicians and leaders in healthcare, to improve the knowledge of what they do among other healthcare professionals and to promote SAS as an attractive career option.

Securing the future workforce for emergency departments in England

In October 2017, HEE, NHSI, the Royal College of Emergency Medicine (RCEM) and NHS England published a plan to ensure sustainable staffing to meet the growing demands of the future. 

Securing the future workforce for emergency departments in England aims to grow a multi-professional workforce, reduce attrition in medical training and ensure emergency departments in England are attractive places to work.


Dignity at work

Everyone deserves to be treated with dignity and respect at work. Bullying and harassment is not acceptable. A 2015 BMA survey of SAS doctors found that more than a third had experienced bullying, harassment or victimisation at work over the preceding 12 months. Read the survey findings and find out what the BMA is doing to tackle bullying and harassment on the BMA website. You can also find more helpful information on our evidence and tools pages.


Professionalism and Cultural Transformation toolkit

The Professionalism and Cultural Transformation (PACT) toolkit can be used to improve professional attitudes and behaviours in the workplace. The toolkit is based on the principles of work undertaken by Hull University Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust and is designed to support managers to embed the PACT programme in their organisation and includes practical information, advice and solutions. The toolkit encourages staff to ‘make a PaCT’ and take positive steps to improve the culture of the organisation.

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