RCP endorses SAS Collective campaign

The Royal College of Physicians (RCP) is the first medical Royal College to endorse #SASsix, a campaign founded by the SAS Collective to improve the career development and retention of specialist, associate specialist and specialty (SAS) doctors across the UK.

SAS and locally employed doctors (LEDs) make up around 30% of the medical workforce, playing a vital role in the NHS. This is a skilled, diverse and motivated group of doctors: 83% of them have 10 or more years of experience in medicine.

Most SAS doctors work in senior roles in the NHS, treating and caring for thousands of patients every day, many running their own clinics and working autonomously. As patient care grows ever more complex, with new technologies and treatments, the NHS needs highly skilled, specialist doctors who can care for an ageing population with multiple chronic conditions. SAS and LEDs are essential to the NHS, the RCP asserts.     

SAS and LEDs are the fastest growing part of the medical workforce, increasing by 40% between 2017–2021. A growing number of these doctors are motivated by wanting a more flexible career path and roles, geographical stability or a better work-life balance.

Two years ago, the RCP launched its 2022–2024 strategy for SAS doctors, aiming to identify and support these physicians in their training, leadership and educational needs. With the appointment of a new SAS lead college officer, Dr. Naeem Aziz, the RCP will be refreshing this strategy and working with SAS doctors across the UK, including the SAS Collective campaign, to ensure that all SAS doctors have time to learn, teach and lead, recognising that their career and professional development is as important as any other doctor in the NHS. 

The #SASsix policy calls are:  

  1. Every early career SAS doctor should have access to an educational supervisor.
  2. All SAS doctors should have equity of access to professional development opportunities relevant to their stage of career.
  3. All specialty doctors who meet the required capabilities should have the opportunity to become specialists.
  4. Senior SAS doctors should be offered the opportunity to be educators at every level on a par with consultants eg educational supervisors, clinical supervisors, directors of medical education.
  5. All extended roles in leadership and management should be open to all substantive medical staff ie consultants and appropriately experienced SAS doctors.
  6. All LEDs employed for more than two years within one NHS employer should be offered the opportunity to transfer to the appropriate SAS contract.

Dr. Aziz is an associate specialist in south Wales and a fellow of the RCP. He is the clinical director for community hospitals and the strategic lead for SAS doctors at Aneurin Bevan University Health Board (ABUHB). He is the SAS advocate for his health board, acting as the point of contact for SAS doctors and working with senior management including the medical director, Dr James Calvert, to support the role of SAS doctors.

ABUHB has pioneered work to support its SAS and LED workforce by developing a bespoke autonomous working policy for SAS doctors, a GMC portfolio pathway support policy and network, and a dedicated support network for international medical graduates. SAS doctors in the health board are actively supported to become clinical and educational supervisors and appraisers. They are offered structured support for the GMC portfolio pathway, they have access to educational supervisor and mentors, and they are offered protected SPA time to focus on education and learning.

Dr. Naeem Aziz FRCP, RCP SAS lead and chair of the RCP SAS regional network said:  "After more than 20 years in the NHS as an SAS doctor, I am truly honoured to be appointed as the RCP SAS lead. The RCP is clear that SAS doctors must play an important role in the NHS, and the #SASsix campaign sets out how SAS doctors should be supported in practice. 

"I am the only SAS physician in my organisation (and possibly in Wales) to be appointed as a clinical director. I want to take what I’ve learned in my local leadership role and expand on this work, collaborating with other medical royal colleges, the GMC, the SAS Collective, NHS Employers and the trade unions to help NHS trusts and health boards to put this in practice. 

"I am proud to be an SAS doctor and a fellow of the RCP. Being an SAS doctor is a fascinating and fulfilling career in its own right and provides an exciting alternative for those doctors who do not want to follow a national training pathway to become a consultant."

Dr. Rosie Connell, an early career specialty doctor said: "People become SAS doctors for a lot of reasons. There is a lot to process for someone new to the role and the #SASsix policy calls can help doctors who are starting out on this pathway, signposting them towards ongoing support for career progression."

Dr. Imran Sharieff, founding member of the SAS Collective said: "As a group of grassroots SAS doctors dedicated to enhancing the recognition and support for our branch of practice, we are honoured that our campaign has received the endorsement of the Royal College of Physicians. Together, we strive to champion genuine change that not only improves the careers of all SAS doctors but also strengthens our healthcare system for the benefit of our patients."

Professor Partha Kar FRCP, elected RCP Council member and co-author of the Medical Workforce Race Equality Standard (MWRES) said: "It’s a huge pleasure to be part of this journey. This is rightful recognition of our SAS colleagues and their work. It continues the commitment of the RCP to the MWRES action plan which calls on stakeholders to support SAS doctors to make progress in leadership roles."

Dr. James Calvert FRCP, medical director at Aneurin Bevan University Health Board said: "I am delighted that Dr Aziz will have the chance to assist the RCP in their goal of improving the working lives of SAS doctors. For the past two years, Dr. Aziz has served as the SAS advocate at Aneurin Bevan University Health Board and has played a crucial role in transforming the experience for SAS doctors within our organisation.

"I am thankful for everything he has accomplished for us, and I am thrilled that he will be able to extend his professional guidance and expertise to SAS doctors at the RCP. We take pride in being the birthplace of the NHS in Wales and I am glad Dr. Aziz will continue our tradition of innovation and progress."

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