Advisory Appointments Committees (AACs) - Employer Guide

An Advisory Appointment Committee (AAC) is an interview panel that must be formed for NHS employers in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, to appoint to substantive consultant posts.

This webpage gives an overview of the roles of the employer and RCPCH in the AAC process, including step by step guidance and FAQs.
Last modified
25 June 2024

What is an AAC?

An Advisory Appointments Committee is a panel that must be convened in order to appoint consultants in the NHS.

In order to be quorate, an AAC Panel must consist of no less than the following five core members:

  1. A lay member (normally the Chair of the employing body or another non-executive director)
  2. The NHS employer’s Chief Executive or his or her nominated senior manager
  3. The Medical Director of the employing body (or their medically qualified nominated deputy)
  4. A consultant working at the employer, normally from the relevant specialty or sub-specialty
  5. The Royal College AAC Assessor

For NHS Trusts and Health Boards this is a legal requirement; for Foundation Trusts it is required as part of agreed best practice (see Downloads box). The step-by-step process is the same regardless of foundation status.

The RCPCH has a central role in the AAC process. We approve job descriptions and person specifications before then providing an Assessor to sit on the AAC, per regulations, as an external panellist.

This process, whilst simple in principle, requires that all parties know their role, who to contact, and when.

Our new step by step guide laid out below will help medical staffing teams navigate the RCPCH process.

Please be mindful of the timescales involved in order to plan ahead and ensure a smooth recruitment process.

Step 1 – Submission of the AAC Request Form, job description and person specification

All AAC requests must begin with the submission of the AAC request form (see Downloads box). This must be submitted 8 weeks in advance of any provisional interview dates (dates can be fixed later.) You should send this form to aac@rcpch.ac.uk. This form allows the RCPCH AAC team to:

  • Check basic information about the post and seek amendments/clarification quickly if needed
  • Ensure the interview date is set far enough in advance (8 weeks from point of submission). If the interview date is earlier than this, we will request that it is moved back. It is best practice to plan appointments well in advance.
  • Ensures through, our checklist, that medical staffing teams understand what is required of them (e.g. including College Assessors in shortlisting).

What to avoid:

Please do not submit short notice AAC requests with interview dates set earlier than 8 weeks’ time. The team is limited in our ability to help in these situations and there is a high likelihood you will need to reschedule, given the need to give our College Assessors sufficient time and notice.

Under the new process please do not contact RCPCH Assessors until you are formally instructed to do so by the RCPCH AAC team.

In the past this may have taken place in your local area, however this must now come through the RCPCH team.

If the College is unaware of an interview taking place, or the job description is not approved, the RCPCH will not support the appointment and will not accept responsibility for any issues that arise from it. This includes our members reaching out informally to colleagues that they know well. The structured step by step process must be followed.

Step 2 – Approving the job description, job plan, and person specification

Once a job description and associated person specification are unchanged, these approvals remain valid for a year. You will need to inform the AAC team that you are reusing an old job description so they can match it against the previous AAC and confirm with you that reapproval will not be necessary.

Job description essential requirements

  • A timetabled job plan should enable the Consultant to maintain continuity of patient care with his or her caseload
  • For Consultant posts with resident night shifts, time off before or after night shifts should be made clear in the Job Plan, and should neither impinge on clinical care, nor on professional development.
  • Consultants should not have to travel between sites more than once a day.
  • Those with an academic or management component to their Job Plans should have this considered separately.
  • Special Interest posts should have a minimum of two PAs per week and up to 4PAs in the sub-specialty interest in the Job Plan
  • Sub-specialty posts should have 40 percent or more time spent in the subspecialty.

Job description approval process

Job description approvals are now carried out exclusively by members of the RCPCH Panel of Assessors. Assessors are the external representatives who go on to engage in shortlisting and represent the RCPCH on the interview panels.

Once our team have screened the AAC Request Form and accompanying Job Description/Person Specification, provided all is satisfactory, they will provide you with an approved list of RCPCH Assessors that you can contact.

You should e-mail these Assessors with the full range of provisional interview dates. If you have one fixed interview date then this will reduce overall availability and response rate. Ensuring maximum notice is the best way to ensure you will secure representation.

Once you have found a College Assessor who is available for one of your provisional interview dates, you should then contact the RPCH AAC administrative team. We will then send the post information to the College Assessor to evaluate and approve.

Please do not send the job description/person spec to all Assessors on the approved list.

There may be changes required and if so the RCPCH AAC team will communicate these to you and provide guidance. Otherwise, the post will be approved, and you can add the RCPCH approval stamp (please see a sample below.)

RCPCH logo with Approved / sample

College Assessors will belong to the relevant sub-specialty if the post has more than 40 percent time spent in sub-specialty practice. However it may be that they seek further guidance and support from the relevant College Special Advisory Committee (CSAC) in approving the post. The CSACs have a core role in setting the relevant post approval standards for each sub-specialty and making this available to our Assessors.

Final approval is always made by the Assessor. Please do not contact the CSACs directly regarding post approval.

Once approval is granted you can proceed to Step 3.

Step 3 – Shortlisting and Interview

Click to expand each section below to find details on shortlisting and interview process:

Shortlisting

Shortlisting is done by comparing applications with the approved person specification.

It is best practice for College Assessors to be involved in shortlisting and the RCPCH has an expectation that medical staffing teams will allow sufficient time for this to take place.

You should write to the AAC team and confirm with us that the College Assessor has been invited to shortlist, and then again once shortlisting has taken place with their involvement as an independent assessor.

If the College Assessor finds during shortlisting that an applicant is unsuitable to interview, they will inform the employer medical staffing team, the AAC team, as well as the Chair of the panel.

Where there is sustained disagreement during shortlisting the RCPCH can arrange for a second opinion from one of our AAC Clinical Leads. Where an applicant is still found not to meet the person specification and role requirements, this applicant should not be invited to interview.

Interview

It is vital that all panellists take detailed notes during the interview. Our College Assessor will take notes which will go onto an outcome form, confirming details of the AAC with the College for our records.

If the College Assessor does not find an applicant to be appointable, they will make this known during the post-interview discussion. It is vital that enough time is allowed for a full discussion, as these are long term appointments with direct consequences to standards of care.

It may be that in some cases an appointment can be made under certain conditions, for example the College Assessor may require that a doctor with lacking sub-specialty experience is appointed only if a structured training plan is put in place.

Where the College Assessor is categorical in saying a doctor is unappointable, this doctor should not be appointed by the employer.

Please note if you intend to use personality or psychometric tests as part of the AAC assessment you should inform us in advance and ensure the College Assessor has access to these.

Step 4 – Post interview

The RCPCH expects that College Assessors are reimbursed for their time as per the NHS Pay and Conditions Circular (PDF, login required) (page 31, ‘Miscellaneous’).

As the College Assessors are involved in job approving, shortlisting and then attending an interview, the RCPCH expects the full day rate to be paid. This is currently £161.60.

If a panel is held in person, rather than virtually or hybrid, then employers should be prepared to cover travel and reasonable subsistence as well.

FAQs

How long will job approvals take?

We will try to process these as soon as possible, but please bear in mind that approval is given by our busy clinicians, so it can take up to a maximum of four weeks. Anything beyond that will be considered unusual and will be escalated to find a quick solution.

When can we advertise?

If you have sufficient lead in time - and we encourage advance planning to enable this - it is best to advertise once approval has been given by RCPCH for the job description and associated person specification. Once it is made available, this will also allow you to add the RCPCH approval stamp to the job description and advert, showcasing that you are an employer that follows best practice and has received Royal College approval for the post.

However we appreciate medical staffing teams are busy and demands can be placed on them at short notice. You can therefore advertise while a post is pending approval, on the proviso that you should write to any existing applicants and advise them of the changes made to the job description or person specification. You should confirm that you have done this with the RCPCH once you’ve made contact.

If a job approval is taking a long time can this be automatically approved?

This used to be the case but is no longer in effect. If an approval is taking a long time, then the AAC team manager will investigate it and find a resolution.

What role does RCPCH play in academic posts?

We approve the clinical components of the post only. When the interview takes place, the College Assessor will be assessing the candidate’s clinical competence.

The academic aspects must get approval of the relevant university. The RCPCH will assume that this has been done when an academic role is submitted to us.

How long does job approval last?

If no changes are made, then the approval lasts for one year. When you want to submit an identical post, please let the AAC team know that it has been approved already within the last year, and we will check.

If any changes are made, then you will need to seek reapproval; however if you let us know what has been changed then this will help speed up the process.

What happens if we give you less than eight weeks’ notice?

We will do our best but if we are given very short notice then it is likely we will need to insist that the interview date is postponed.

Employers have a responsibility to plan ahead and factor in that RCPCH involvement is central to the process. We ask that you appreciate that our role in providing external quality assurance should not be an afterthought. We in turn will work with you to make the process as simple to use and straightforward as possible.

Does this apply to NHS Employers in Scotland?

No. Scotland uses a separate system of External Advisors, as noted on the Scottish Academy website. AAC legislation and best practice requirements therefore do not apply to Scottish posts.