RCPE Press Release

19 June 2013


NHS employers and other stakeholders will today be urged to endorse and adopt a new UK-wide charter which has been developed by the Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh (RCPE) to recognise and support SAS doctors’ distinct professional needs.

Why is the Charter for SAS doctors required?

Staff grades, specialty doctors and associate specialists (SAS doctors) play a vital role in NHS service delivery, but their contribution and expertise have historically been under-valued and under-recognised. In recent years there has been an increase in the number of doctors entering the SAS grade rather than specialty training and this trend is set to continue as the demographic of the medical workforce changes and greater flexibility in working hours is sought. However, despite having distinct training and educational needs from trainees or consultants, and the introduction of the current SAS contract in 2008, there is no definitive strategy for the education and development of SAS doctors. The RCPE believes it is vital that SAS doctors are better supported and that the SAS role must become a more attractive career option if we wish to avoid losing talented doctors from hospital medicine.

Against this background the RCPE SAS Sub-committee has developed a UK-wide Charter for SAS Doctors to clarify the roles and responsibilities of SAS doctors and their employers regardless of specialty or College affiliation.

The Charter for SAS Doctors

The Charter is based on a number of guiding principles designed to ensure patient care and safety while better supporting the professional needs of SAS doctors. It lays out a number of detailed commitments which the RCPE believes employers must make to SAS doctors. These commitments include –

  • SAS doctors should work at a level, and receive supervision, commensurate with their competence and experience;
  • each SAS doctor should be allocated with a named Clinical Lead and appraiser with whom they will develop personal development and job plans and have frequent access;
  • service and educational needs are considered in parallel;
  • a sufficient breadth and depth of clinical work and relevant professional activities are provided to enable SAS doctors to achieve and maintain relevant competencies and develop as clinicians;
  • identifiable sessions are allocated to support professional activities including administration, education, audit, appraisal and teaching;
  • SAS doctors receive protected time for training to meet their professional development requirements; and
  • personal study leave budgets are provided for all SAS doctors, who manage this to address their development needs.

The Charter for SAS Doctors has been welcomed by the Academy of Medical Royal Colleges and Faculties and the British Medical Association, and will be launched at an RCPE educational event for SAS doctors on 19 June 2013. It will be published on the RCPE website and disseminated to related stakeholders throughout the UK.

Dr Mike Jones, Vice President (and SAS lead), Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh (RCPE), said,

“The role of the SAS doctor is absolutely vital for the NHS, but has not always been understood or valued. It is essential that SAS doctors are better supported and that the SAS role becomes a more attractive career option if we do not wish to risk losing highly-skilled doctors from the NHS. In particular, we need to ensure that SAS doctors are exposed to a sufficient breadth and depth of clinical work to achieve and maintain relevant competencies and develop as clinicians, and that they are fully supported in undertaking a wide range of professional activities. We believe the Charter for SAS Doctors provides a firm foundation for employers to demonstrate their commitment to SAS doctors and to strengthen the support provided”.

Dr Fiona Robertson, Chair, RCPE SAS Sub-committee, said,

“The Charter has been developed to be relevant to all SAS doctors on a cross-specialty basis, and to provide a practical framework for employers to support their professional development. It seeks to address SAS doctors’ needs from recruitment and induction, through job planning and appraisal, to highlighting the need for protected time to undertake training and other professional activities in addition to supporting those interested in developing their careers further. Significantly, it has been developed by SAS doctors for SAS doctors, based upon our experiences of practising in a range of positions throughout the UK and informed by surveys which we have undertaken to gain wider understanding regarding SAS doctors’ needs and aspirations. I would urge SAS groups and doctors around the UK to get behind the Charter and to encourage its wide adoption.”

Dr Naila Kamal, Chair of the Academy of Medical Royal Colleges’ SAS Doctors’ Committee said,

“As Chair of the Academy SAS Group I welcome the RCPE Charter. SAS doctors are a largely under-used group of doctors whose contribution to the NHS could be more widely recognised. I strongly believe that SAS doctors are a key element in the NHS in all four nations. The Academy welcomes SAS grades' participation in the work it does and is committed to taking issues forward on behalf of all SAS doctors.”

Dr Radhakrishna Shanbhag, Chair of the BMA's Staff, Associate Specialists and specialty doctors’ Committee, said:

“SAS doctors are confident and competent healthcare professionals, delivering specialist clinical services in partnership with consultants and other health workers. They make significant contributions to the advancement of medicine and the profession in areas of leadership, education, research and governance. This charter will help SAS doctors use the available funding for career development to maximum effect.”


Contact: Graeme McAlister on 0131-247-3693 or 07733-263453


Notes for Editors

The RCPE Charter for SAS Doctors was developed by the RCPE SAS Sub-committee. The RCPE SAS Sub-committee was established in 2011, represents the views of SAS doctors within the RCPE and externally, and provides annual educational updates for SAS doctors.

The Charter for SAS Doctors was adapted from the earlier RCPE Charter for Medical Training, published in 2011


Further information: