SAS and Specialty Doctors

The College acknowledges the pivotal role that doctors working in career posts make to the NHS and is keen to encourage all aspects of professional and career development.


Useful links

The joint College and Association of Anaesthetists report:
Working together – crossing boundaries, inspiring and supporting our SAS doctors

Association of Anaesthetists publication:
The SAS Handbook (3rd edition) 2016

Position statement in support of reopening the Associate Specialist grade:
This position statement sets out the view of the College and Association of Anaesthetists that the grade of Associate Specialist should be reopened to new entrants based on workforce need.


SAS Anaesthetists – Securing our Workforce

The RCoA recently carried out its first survey of Staff and Associate Specialist (SAS) doctors for which we would like to thank our SAS colleagues for taking part.

Interim results were released by the College in February 2017. Launched at the 2017 RCoA Summer Symposium the report SAS Anaesthetists – Securing our Workforce provides further detail from the survey as well as indicates what steps will be taken by the College to further understand and promote the interests of SAS colleagues within the healthcare system.

The Joint SAS Working Party is in the process of analysing the results, but for now these are some of the headline points;

  • 55% SAS doctors surveyed obtained their PMQ in non- EU Countries
  • Majority (63%) of SAS doctors are on a 'specialty doctor' type contract
  • 90% of SAS doctors have substantive posts
  • 47% chose to be an SAS doctor because of better work life balance
  • 87% have at least 1.0 SPA  in their job plan

An article written by Dr Lucy Williams  on the SAS Survey results was published in the May 2017 issue of the Bulletin.  

Professional Development, CPD and Revalidation

All doctors are required to develop and maintain their professional skills for the benefit of patients and to take part in appraisal and revalidation. The RCoA supports the AoMRC SAS Charter for SAS Doctors as follows:

The above documents outline the requirements for all SAS doctors to have:

  • Appropriate Contract, Job Plan and activities. The job plan must contain appropriate SPA time for the role together with adequate resources for CPD. This may change over time and should be reviewed as appropriate.
  • Access to resources such as office accommodation and technology, secretarial support, effective induction.
  • Sufficient breadth and depth of clinical work and relevant professional activities to maintain relevant competencies.

Clinical Work and Supervision

All doctors are required to recognise and work within the limits of their clinical competence, and to seek help from colleagues or others where this is appropriate.

Some SAS doctors are relatively junior and inexperienced. They may be unfamiliar with the particular case mix that they are required to treat, or the way in which the hospital operates, especially if they have not previously worked in the UK. These doctors need to be closely supervised by a Consultant, often on a case-by-case basis. This supervision may be direct or indirect, depending on the clinical situation.

Other more experienced SAS doctors have the expertise and ability to take responsibility for patients themselves, without consultant supervision, under certain circumstances. These circumstances need to be considered and agreed at on an individual basis. The ability to work autonomously depends upon the training and experience of the doctor, the range and scope of their clinical practice, and evidence of satisfactory practice reviewed at annual appraisal. Autonomous working can also be discussed within job planning meetings.

The College has produced detailed guidance on the supervision of SAS doctors.

Management, Teaching and Administration

SAS doctors are involved with management, teaching and administration, and the College supports and encourages this. The personal skills and attributes of individuals are crucial in deciding their suitability for these roles. SAS doctors should consider applying for many of them, including

  • Clinical supervisor or educational supervisor roles for Foundation, Core and Specialty trainees (please refer to GMC Guidance)
  • SAS tutors at Trust level
  • Appraiser roles
  • Examinership at the College
  • College SAS committee
  • Involvement in National Audit projects as local contributors or case reviewers (as advertised from time to time).
  • Research projects and research travel grants

Specialty/SAS Doctors returning to training

Applications from doctors who want to re-enter training after a break will be dealt with in accordance with the procedures and person specifications of the national recruitment programme. For those who have continued to practise anaesthesia (for instance as SDs or SAS grades) the point of re-entry will depend on the level of previous training and subsequent experience.  For further information on the national recruitment process please see the recruitment to anaesthesia pages.

Making an Equivalence (CESR) Application

Equivalence describes the process of assessing an applicant’s training and/or experience against the current training programme requirements as set out in The UK CCT in Anaesthetics in order to gain a Certificate of Eligibility for Specialist Registration (CESR) for the Specialist Register held by the General Medical Council (GMC).

Applications have to be made through the GMC Certification Unit and Equivalence procedures are the responsibility of the GMC. Initial enquiries should be made to the GMC.

Applicants are assessed by an RCoA Committee who measure an applicant’s training and/or experience against that which is expected for the award of a UK Certificate of Completion of Training (CCT) in Anaesthetics. Once this is complete a recommendation is made to the GMC. Before considering an application, applicants should examine in detail:

In addition to providing evidence of training and experience, applicants are required to demonstrate possession of an acceptable test of knowledge. A list of previously accepted tests of knowledge can be found on the RCoA website. If your qualification is not in this list, evidence should be provided including a validated certificate of completion, with the full details of the curriculum and assessment criteria in force at the time of the award. This should be in English and validated by the institution.

Dr Kirstin May wrote an article on the CESR process which was published in the March 2017 issue of the Bulletin.  

For further details please go the Equivalence pages on the website or contact

SAS doctors – the future

While the College is celebrating its 25th Anniversary, the SAS committee is continuing to take an active role in College life. Read our thoughts on the future in the November issue of the College Bulletin.

The SAS Committee, April 2017


SAS opinions sought for College Bulletin

The Career Grade Committee is keen to involve our SAS members and fellows further with the College and would like to encourage you to write an article for submission to the Bulletin. Articles need to be constructive and ideally include useful information that is of interest to a wider audience.

Please submit your article to  Articles will go directly to the Committee who will review them first, before submitting selected articles to the Editorial Board of the Bulletin.

Details about the length, style of article and deadlines are available via the Bulletin pages on the website.


SAS Committee Secretary
020 7092 1552