SAS professional development funding: application guidance

Read our guidance to support employers to allocate SAS development funding.

26 March 2024

To support the implementation of the new 2021 specialty doctor and specialist contracts and the professional development of SAS doctors, NHS England included the SAS development funding in 2021/22 and 2023/24 within commissioner allocations.


This guidance has been published in partnership with the British Medical Association (BMA).

Who this funding will cover

This funding is available to all doctors employed under SAS terms and conditions. These doctors are eligible to apply for this funding to support their professional development.

Scope and principles of funding 

  1. The SAS development funding for years one and three of the multi-year contract deal (2021/22 and 2023/24) was incldued in commissioner allocations.
  2. The specific purpose of the funding is to invest in professional development activities for doctors under SAS terms and conditions, as specified below. 
  3. This funding represents discrete new investment, separate and in addition to other funding already available to SAS doctors, such as NHS England’s SAS Development Fund (which is recurrent).  
  4. The funding will be used to support specialty doctors and specialists, to enable them to deliver high-quality care for patients, to promote improvements in services, and to help create a collaborative, inclusive and learning-focused culture and work environment. 
  5. The funding should not be used to supplement or replace any existing funding available to all SAS doctors. The distribution of the funding should be agreed upon by the SAS tutor in agreement with the SAS local negotiation committee (LNC) representatives and the SAS advocate (where they exist).
  6. The funding can be used to support both individual, and collective professional development activities, across a greater proportion of the SAS workforce including (but not limited to):
    • Supporting individuals undertaking a Certificate of Eligibility for Specialist Registration (CESR) or meeting portfolio development needs, such as undertaking a credential.
    • Leadership and management development (training and other learning opportunities). 
    • Training in coaching, mentoring and mental health support, to support other members of the workforce.
    • Creating and funding specific roles, such as for mentoring locally employed doctors.
    • Funding SAS-specific bodies or events, such as establishing a regular SAS Forum or organising teambuilding events.
  7.  The funding should not be used to support the following activities:
    • Mandatory and statutory training courses that SAS doctors are already expected to complete.
    • Books, journals, library services, computer equipment and software packages.
    • Examination fees.
    • To meet the reasonable expenses associated with periods of approved study leave.
  8.  This guidance should help inform how the SAS development funding could be used locally. Decisions should be made in discussions with SAS doctors, such as through local negotiating committee representatives or a SAS forum, and in consultation with the SAS tutor and SAS advocate (where these exist) and informed by individual needs and organisational priorities. 

Allocation of funding

Costs to trusts of providing additional SAS development resources in line with the SAS contract reform framework agreement are reflected in NHS funding through the NHS Payment Scheme Cost Uplift Factor (CUF) as set out in section 4 of the 2023/25 NHS Payment Scheme

The SAS development fund (£3.5m) for 2023/24 is included in overall 2023/24 ICB allocations and the NHS payment system CUF. In January 2023, the monthly workforce statistics published by NHS Digital reflected that there were approximately 11,507 SAS doctors on a full-time equivalent (FTE) basis. This therefore, translates to £304 per FTE. 

To calculate an amount that should be spent on the development of SAS doctors, each organisation should multiply their full time equivalent (FTE) number (based on the January 2023 SAS doctor full time equivalent (FTE) data by £304. 

The total FTE number of SAS doctors in scope in an organisation (across associate specialist, specialty doctor, staff grade hospital practitioner / clinical assistant) can be found on the NHS Digital workforce statistics web page in table 3: NHS Hospital & Community Health Service (HCHS) monthly workforce statistics: HCHS Staff by NHS England region, Organisation and main staff group - Full Time Equivalent'.

How SAS doctors can access the funding

Each trust should ensure there is a transparent process for eligible specialty doctors and specialists to access this funding and for the funding to be used as per the principles set out above.

SAS doctor professional development funding update March 2024 

The 2021 Framework Agreement set out specific funding allocations for 2021/22 and 2023/24 to be spent on SAS doctor development.

How did SAS doctor development funding work under the 2021 Framework Agreement?

This SAS doctor development funding was included in commissioner allocations and provider payment uplifts from NHS England to cover spending in 2021/22 and 2023/24. This funding is available to all doctors employed under SAS terms and conditions and these doctors are eligible to access this funding to support their professional development. 

Some employers have reported difficulties identifying and spending the funding, as this was not specifically ringfenced, but was included within the Cost Uplift Factor (CUF). NHS England has confirmed that the cost uplift factor sets a uniform increase to payments for NHS trusts within which the development funding has been calculated. 

As such, this funding is contained within the income which providers are expected to have received, but it cannot be separately identified. Employers are expected to calculate and allocate this funding based on the number of FTE SAS doctors and to use it within the relevant financial years.

The guidance above is available to support employers to calculate the amount of development funding available and allocate it to the correct budget, for those who have not yet done so.  

What will happen from 2024/25 onwards?

NHS England has confirmed that the level of funding made available in 2023/24 will be included in baselines for setting future allocations, but there is no specific requirement for this to be allocated to SAS doctor development. 

Employers do have the option to use this funding to continue to invest in supporting professional development of SAS doctors, and we would encourage this.