Statement on SAS contract update in Scotland
28 November 2022
We welcome the recent news from the BMA’s Scottish SAS Committee that the proposed SAS contract update in Scotland has been approved by their members. This includes the creation of a new senior SAS role, the “Specialist”, in addition to updating the Specialty Doctor contract.
As was the case in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, existing Specialty Doctors will now have the opportunity to transfer to the updated Specialty Doctor contract, if they wish. Likewise, existing Associate Specialists will have the opportunity to transfer to the Specialist contract, assuming they meet the eligibility criteria. However, there is no direct mechanism for existing Specialty Doctors to “regrade” to being Specialists, regardless of the nature of their work.
We would reiterate what we have already stated in previous statements relating to the SAS contract reforms in the other nations. Firstly, these new contracts are an opportunity to emphasize the importance of the appropriate national contract for your work. In recent years there has been a concerning rise in the number of doctors working on non-standard contracts across the UK. Many of these “locally-employed” or “trust” doctors would be better served by being employed on a substantive SAS contract, with the permanence, protections and career progression contained therein.
Secondly, many senior Specialty Doctors are likely to already meet the requirements to become Specialists. It is important they are facilitated to do so, in order for the promise of this contract reform to be realised. The alternative career pathway created by the restoration of a senior role relies on seniority being recognised, and opportunity to progress being created for these doctors. We are in a workforce crisis, and the recent GMC workforce report, alongside work done to understand doctors’ decisions to migrate from the UK, demonstrates why we need the careers of these doctors to be viable. To use the terminology found in the GMC papers, many “internationally mobile”, “disillusioned” and “career-limited” doctors are choosing to take their expertise out of the UK, and we need these doctors to stay. Supporting SAS anaesthetists to progress their careers is also clearly the right thing to do.
Thirdly, the new contracts feature new safeguards to protect against excessive out-of-hours working, which complement the Association’s Fight Fatigue campaign. Regardless of which contract doctors are employed on, this provides an opportunity to review existing rotas and ensure that they are sustainable. This is especially important as these doctors age, as reflected in the recent Association “Age and the anaesthetist” guideline.
SAS and locally-employed anaesthetists are an important group, and an increasing proportion of our workforce. As a specialty we should continue to do everything within our power to support them, progress their careers and retain their skill.
Dr Emma Wain, Honorary Treasurer Elect and Chair, SAS Committee
Dr Rob Fleming, Honorary Membership Secretary Elect and former Chair, SAS Committee
Dr Matt Davies, President