Career information for Staff, Associate Specialist and Specialty (SAS) doctors

Information on the role of SAS paediatrician, advice on how to become a SAS doctor and guidance on career opportunities within the SAS grade.

 What is a SAS doctor?

Staff, Associate Specialist and Specialty (SAS) doctors are a diverse but significant part of the paediatric workforce, who neither are in deanery-approved training posts nor hold a consultant appointment. SAS doctors have specific representation in the RCPCH via the SAS committee and a targeted webpage.

The SAS role is extremely varied. Examples of SAS career profiles are available in this section.

How to become a SAS paediatrician

Specialty doctor applicants (appointment to Staff and Associate Specialist contracts has been closed since 2008) must have completed at least four years (full time or equivalent) of postgraduate training in the UK (or equivalent EEA training). At least two of the four years must be in paediatrics or a recognised equivalent training or the doctor must be able to demonstrate achievement of the necessary equivalent competencies.

Postgraduate qualifications such as Membership of the RCPCH (MRCPCH) or Diploma in Child Health are desirable, but not essential.

SAS doctors must be GMC registered with a licence to practice but are not expected to be listed on the Specialist Register (unless they have gained CCT, CESR(CP) or CESR).

Those in postgraduate paediatric training may actively choose to move into a Specialty doctor post either permanently or as a temporary break from training.

Overseas doctors may also apply for a SAS post, either as a permanent career choice or ultimately with the aim of applying for a training post.

Guidance on SAS contracts, including guidance on Threshold One and Two progression, SPA time, on-call and acting up can be found on the BMA website alongside job planning guidance.

RCPCH also offers 1-1 careers guidance to SAS doctors who are members of the College.

Benefits of a SAS role

While the following depends on the nature of the SAS role, these are considered some of the key benefits of the role:

  • Improved work–life balance
  • Flexible contracts (term time/part time)
  • Often no on call (particularly community based roles)
  • No management expectations
  • Targeted funding for SAS doctors
  • Ability to progress onto GMC specialist register if wished

Career opportunities in SAS grade

A range of career opportunities are available to SAS doctors as demonstrated by the career profiles from SAS doctors. A large number of SAS paediatricians work in community child health, however all areas of paediatrics employ SAS doctors. While not all opportunities may be suitable for you, examples include:

  1. Appraiser
  2. College Tutor
  3. SAS Tutor representing other SAS doctors in a Trust
  4. Educational and/or clinical supervisor
  5. Lecturer
  6. Management role e.g. clinical director
  7. NCAS assessor
  8. Invited Reviewer

Further information on career grade appointment procedures can be found in the RCPCH Paediatricians Handbook (RCPCH login required).

A guidance document SAS doctor development - summary of resources and further work (Pdf, 6MB, 19 pages) has also been produced jointly by the Academy of Medical Royal Colleges, the BMA, Health Education England and NHS Employers.

SAS doctors should also refer to the careers development section for further opportunities and ideas.

Targeted funding and education for SAS doctors

To support development of doctors in the SAS grade, some national development funding has been set aside for these doctors (not just in paediatrics). The development funding has helped enhance SAS doctor careers. However it varies from area to area geographically as to whether it is available. Further information of how funding is allocated and managed across the UK is available on the BMA website.

Many trusts organise education sessions/courses just for SAS doctors and your local SAS tutor is involved in setting these up, so do engage with your SAS tutor.