Update for SAS doctors – new contracts

It’s been getting on for a month now since I updated you on the new SAS contracts – and the fact the profession had voted overwhelming in favour of accepting them. Have a read back on my last blog if you missed this the first time around!

Since then, we’ve been monitoring the process at a local level, and checking letters are issuing from your employers to invite expressions of interest in moving to the new contract. Things do seem to be progressing relatively well, but of course, as with any change, there are some issues and teething problems. There have been plenty of questions too – so I’ve added some information below that I hope will help guide you through things a bit more.

Expressing an interest in the new contract – everyone should have received a letter or email from their HR department in their Board inviting expressions of interest in moving to the new contracts.  You need to respond by 6 Jan to ensure you are eligible for backpay if you do transfer.  If you haven’t had a letter/email from employer – check that you haven’t inadvertently deleted the email and get in touch with your HR department. At the very least email HR to indicate you believe you are eligible and wish to express interest in transferring.  As well as contacting HR department, let your local BMA SAS rep and/or LNC know.

BMA support – non-members need to join the BMA by 6 Jan in order to have access to BMA support. This is particularly important for those transferring and in discussions on job planning – and you can find out all the details on membership here.  

Eligibility to transfer to new contracts:  All SAS Doctors and hospital based dentists, including locums on fixed term SAS contracts and in post on or before 1 Oct 2022 are eligible to be invited to express an interest and should have had a letter or email from their HR dept.

For Associate Specialists wondering if they should transfer to Specialist – the key message I would give is to express an interest by 6 Jan, and then go through the job planning process and get a formal written offer from Board before making a decision.  Expressing an interest does not commit you to moving, but does give you the option to do so. It essentially keeps your options open.

SAS doctors currently working as a locum consultant/acting up – you should still have received a letter inviting expression of interest in new SAS contract – so all the above applies.

Specialist posts – there is no process for senior SDs to transfer to Specialist.  Specialist posts will be created by NHS Boards based on workforce needs, and will be for open recruitment.  Current AS do have the option under transitional arrangements to transfer to Specialist contract.

Local talks – if you missed the local talks then members can access a recording here

Member engagement coordinators are arranging job planning sessions – if you would like to arrange one in your hospital then get in touch with your relevant MEC (East-hramsay@ba.org.uk, North cbateson@bma.org.uk, West gmackie@bma.org.uk) before 6 Jan so these can be set up as early as possible in the new year.  These sessions will be on job planning for the new contracts and will offer advice on the basic of job planning, differences in the new contract and negotiating advice for those looking to change or improve their job plans.

Reminder – more info on new contracts is on website https://www.bma.org.uk/pay-and-contracts/contracts/sas-doctor-contract/referendum-on-new-scottish-sas-contracts

This is complicated – and we are finding our way here a bit – so please stick with us and I hope the above helps. And we know just how crucial it is given the massive pressures on the workforce. We recently did an FOI to establish the level of vacancies across the Scottish NHS among the SAS workforce which showed it stood at some 28% – or 311 WTE vacancies. There’s a huge hole we need to plug. One of the key ways to do that is to make the job attractive – and I hope the new contract will take some steps on that path.

But we know it is also about much more than that and working conditions, workplace culture, worklife balance and the sheer pressures in the NHS right now are all making it a really tough place to work. These are all things the BMA is working on – and raising awareness of, and we are clear we need urgent action from Government and employers to support doctors at all stages of their career if we are to retain them in the NHS as we desperately need to. You can share your own experiences of what it’s like in the NHS at the moment through our pressures portal – so do please spend a bit of time on this. The more testimony we get from you, the stronger our voice in making the case for change.

Equally we all know there is now magic solution, or cavalry appearing over the horizon, so if you are finding it tough, please do use our wellbeing services. We have a range of services and information to help support you. Our counselling service is open 24/7 to all doctors and medical students – by telephone and in person. It’s confidential and free of charge.

All that remains for me in this blog is to thank you for all you have done this year – to support us here at the BMA and care for patients across Scotland. Your efforts and dedication are recognised and massively appreciated. Have what I hope will be a festive period with a least some chance to rest and I’ll be back to update you on all things contract related (and more!) in the new year.

Dr Bernie Scott is Chair of BMA Scotland’s SAS doctors committee

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