Your role as an RCPCH AAC College Assessor

This page gives step by step guidance for RCPCH Assessors involved in the Advisory Appointments Committees (AAC) process.
Last modified
16 August 2023

Overview of the role

The role of the RCPCH AAC Assessor is to:

  • Establish that candidates for interview are appointable, having both the required training and experience for the post advertised.
  • To approve the job descriptions and person specifications attached to an AAC request that is sent to the Royal College.
  • To engage in shortlisting for AACs wherever available.
  • Provide external quality assurance. The College Assessor acts to ensure that standards remain consistent regardless of local pressures. This protects patient safety and ensures quality of service is maintained.
  • In doing so you will represent the Royal College and give candidates reassurance that the post and interview process conform to required standards.

An AAC Assessor must meet the following requirements.

  • Must be an Ordinary Member or Fellow of the RCPCH
  • Need to have spent 4 years as an NHS Consultant in a substantive position
  • Be working actively as a consultant OR been retired for up to two years
  • Be in good standing with RCPCH
  • Have up to date Equal Opportunities training from the NHS
  • Do no work for the Employing Trust or Health Board
  • Be a member of the relevant sub-specialty for the post advertised
  • Be on the RCPCH's list of approved RCPCH Assessors

If you are interested in becoming an AAC Assessor we would love to hear from you - please e-mail for more information.

We ask that our College Assessors adhere to the following principles:


To ensure that newly appointed Paediatric Consultants have undergone adequate training and the appropriate experience to undertake the role to which they are to be appointed at a Consultant level, while recognising the importance of on-going CPD and team working.

It is recognised that on occasion, for some specialised roles, some additional training after appointment may be desirable.

Diversity and Inclusivity

To support Trusts in their employment policies to promote diversity in the Consultant workforce and supporting those with protected characteristics.

Ethical Standards

To help maintain the highest ethical standards in the both the recruitment process and after appointment in accordance with General Medical Council’s guidance on Good Medical Practice.


To promote newly appointed Consultants in leadership roles and to develop as future leaders.

Aims and mission

To support the aims and mission of the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health.

Step 1 - Post approval

Your first involvement with a possible AAC will be when employers reach out to you for your availability for a certain date. This is done when the employer submits an AAC request form and provides the required preliminary information to RCPCH (see our AAC guidance for employers).

The RCPCH requires that there is at least eight weeks from submission to possible interview date, given that our College Assessors are themselves very busy consultants who require adequate notice.

If you are available for the AAC you should then let the employer know. They should then confirm that you will be acting as the College Assessor for this AAC. At this point both the employer and the College Assessor should e-mail the AAC RCPCH team, confirming this.

Step 2 - Post approval

The AAC team will attempt to screen out any obvious errors before they reach you, allowing you to focus on whether the role is up to standards, and whether the person specification matches the job description. Whilst we do compare the role with the person specification, it's important this is double checked by an Assessor.

Please see below for guidance on how to approve a role.

The person specification

The person specification is primarily used as a framework for shortlisting.

There is a Standardised Person Specification Framework (which you can find in the downloads section - please do take a moment to use this tool for comparison and checking purposes). This includes the basic requirements set out by RCPCH. The College Team will screen these to spot any obvious problems.

Candidates who are shortlisted for interview should be able to fulfil all the essential components of the person specification.

It’s important to check the person specification yourself and flag up any issues or omissions, as you will be using this when the shortlisting window opens.

Approving the job description

This is usually on a Trust or Health Board template, featuring a generic description of the employer, its facilities, locale, etc.

The RCPCH encourages a transparent, departmental approach to job planning and this should be linked to developmental objectives of the new appointee and the department.

What to look for:

  • 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 four PAs in the sub-specialty interest in the job plan
  • Sub-specialty posts should have 40 percent or more time spent in the sub-specialty.
Approving the job plan

What is a job plan and what are the basics to look out for?

The job plan describes the detailed daily activities the Consultant will be doing in their role. They can include more than one different type of week, for example, including a ‘hot week’.

Professional Activities ‘(PAs’) are divided into Direct Clinical Care (‘DCCs’) and Supporting Professional Activities (‘SPAs’).

One PA is four hours or three unsocial hours. Total DCCs and SPAs are averaged across the year. They should be subject to annual review through the ‘job plan annual round.’

A full-time role usually consists of 10 PAs, with two SPAs minimum and up to eight DCCs. Less than full time can be requested.

The job plan as published in the application pack can be negotiated and may be reviewed three months into appointment. The needs of the service will be balanced with the individual.

The job plan is used in annual appraisal to show performance against what has been ‘commissioned’ by the service lead. It will change over time as new commitments and needs emerge.

Direct Clinical Care (DCCs) and Supporting Professional Activities (SPAs)

DCCs are consist of ward rounds, theatre sessions, and administration related to patient care. Consultants need at least 0.25 PAs administration time of reach clinic session.

SPAs are split by the RCPCH into ‘core’ SPAs and ‘other’ SPAs:

  1. Core SPAs include appraisal, job planning, and continuing professional development activity.
  2. ‘Other’ SPAs are audit/QI, teaching, educational supervision, and some external activities (for example work for the RCPCH).

Management, research, and substantial teaching commitments should always have additional PAs.

Full time posts must have at least 1.5 SPAs.

Less than full time posts must have at least 1 SPA.

Out of hours

Job plans must include a maximum of three PAs per week for out of hours (OOH) work, i.e. 17:00-09:00 and weekends. These are either predictable/unpredictable on call, or resident shifts. All OOH non-resident work should be on Band A.

Step 3 – Shortlisting

What is involved?

The RCPCH considers the involvement of College Assessors in the shortlisting process as mandatory.

When you review applications, these forms should be anonymised for ethnicity, date of birth and sex.

Your decisions should be based solely on the application form with reference to the person specification.

You should be asking yourself whether, on paper, the applicant is able to do this job. If there is incomplete or missing information then you can request this, however it must always be done via the employer’s HR or medical staffing team.

For any candidates who are clearly unappointable, based on their application form, you should document this in the ‘comments’ section of the NHS Jobs form and inform HR/medical staffing as well as the Chair of the AAC panel.

The employer may wish to shortlist doctors that you have deemed to be clearly unappointable. In this situation you should escalate to the RCPCH AAC team who will then advise and support.

It’s always a good idea to keep your shortlisting notes to hand ready for the interviews.

What is not involved?

  • You do not need to check the GMC Specialist Register.
  • You do not need to check if the applicant has a CCT pending in the relevant specialty.
  • You do not need to check any Declarations of Convictions.

These are the responsibility of the employer.

Step 4 – Interview and submission of outcome form

The final step is to take part in the interview itself as a member of the panel. You should take notes and then submit the AAC Outcome Form which will be provided to you once you are linked to an AAC Request.

This will allow the RCPCH to collect basic information for workforce monitoring purposes, but chiefly to allow us to receive your comments to fulfil our role as provider of external quality assurance of the process.

What is involved?

You provide external independent overview of the interview. In fact, in some cases you may be invited to lead the questioning.

Expand the sections below for a list of what may be involved / expected:

Before the interview
  • Refresh yourself with the person specification and job description of the role
  • Compile your shortlisting notes to assist you during the interview
  • Liaise with the clinical lead and/or named person in their HR/medical staffing team
  • Ensure you have the interview pack from the RCPCH AAC team
  • Most interviews are now virtual; however, if the AAC is to be done in person, you should ensure you have arranged all travel in good time
  • Make sure you have declared any interests by this point
  • Clarify anything that remains unclear about the job, eg OOH commitment, special interests, etc.
  • Ensure the other panel members understand that your role as AAC Assessor is to provide independent quality assurance
  • Explain that you may challenge views in the post-interview discussion and ask for other panel members to evidence their point of view or opinions, and that you do so simply to fulfil your own obligations as Assessor of the College
  • Agree questions and order of questions
  • If not done already establish the scoring method
  • Make sure there are no other assessment tools/methods being used by the employer that have not been revealed until this point, e.g. psychometric tests
  • Establish the process for decision making
After the interview
  • Engage in frank discussion with other panel members. Be prepared to defend your own opinions and provide evidence on who you think is the best candidate or appointable and make ‘challenges’ yourself where appropriate
  • If employer moves to appoint where you feel it is not suitable, you must insist that your disagreement is documented/minuted (see FAQs in next section for more information)
  • Ensure the RCPCH Outcome Form is completed using notes taken during the interview
  • Establish who will be contacting candidates and acting as point of contact for feedback
  • Be willing to provide feedback (if requested) that is positive, constructive, provides pointers on how to improve next time, and includes general career guidance
  • You will receive a certificate from the AAC office team for you to evidence your work in this area as CPD
  • We strongly encourage you to request reimbursement from the employer for your time as per the NHS Pay and Conditions Circular (PDF, login required) (page 30, ‘Miscellaneous’). We also encourage you to claim expenses for travel and reasonable subsistence if the panel is held in person.


What if I disagree about whether an applicant should be shortlisted?

In the first instance we’d ask that you discuss with the other members of the shortlisting panel. If consensus cannot be reached you should notify the Royal College; however, employers can progress an applicant to the shortlisting stage.

The AAC interview will then be used, as required by legislation and best practice, to determine whether the doctor has sufficient training and experience to be appointed to the role advertised. At this point consensus is required to make an appointment.

What do I do if an employer is looking to make an appointment I disagree with?

You should put across all your concerns in the post-interview discussion. In certain situations you may determine that an appointment can go ahead, provided a structured training programme is put in place to develop skills where current experience is lacking. However sometimes you will find an applicant is categorically not appointable.

If the employer seeks to make an appointment anyway, you should inform them that as Royal College Assessor the candidate they have selected does not meet required standards. You can advise them that you will inform the Royal College and that the RCPCH will follow up with recommendations and next steps in due course.

You could at this point tell the employer that by leaving at this point the AAC is inquorate and therefore the appointment should not be made in line with legal and best practice requirements. This should only be done as a last resort if the appointment is one you feel is unsafe.

You should then provide feedback and the structured outcome form to the AAC admin team at the College. We will then take the matter forward and you will have performed your role in acting to provide external quality assurance.

This is obviously a last resort, and, in almost all cases, discussion will result in a mutually agreed outcome.