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Scotland Deanery

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Your development

Guidance for SAS Doctors and Dentists

Welcome to the SAS grade in Scotland! This page has been designed to provide important information and useful links for newly employed SAS doctors and dentists. If you have specific questions, or you wish to suggest other pieces of information to feature on this page, please contact us at SASDevelopment@nes.scot.nhs.uk.

You are joining approximately 1300 other Specialty Doctors and Dentists as well as Associate Specialists in Scotland. If you are completely new to SAS, hopefully this will give you some useful information. If you have moved from elsewhere to take up a post in Scotland, please be aware the there are some differences compared to the rest of the UK.

Click here to view the SAS Induction Checklist for Scotland's NHS


You have access to a SAS Education Adviser in your health board (click here to find the Education Adviser for your health board). Your EA is also a SAS doctor or dentist; do contact your EA when you start your post, as by joining their local mailing list you will be updated about SAS educational activities and opportunities. They can give you help and guidance as you start your new role. Additionally, the SAS Development programme is supported by Phil who is the Programme Officer. Please contact him for help and guidance at SASDevelopment@nes.scot.nhs.uk

You should also be allocated a senior clinician in your department who can give you guidance in your clinical work and who should be a point of local support for you.

SAS Development Programme Funding

The SAS Development Programme aims to direct national funding to those SAS doctors and dentists whose clinical teams are seeking to develop new or improved clinical services, or to enhance their role within the clinical team, and where funding is not otherwise provided by the employing Health Board. If approved, funding is available to support costs for training, salary backfill, or completion of training to apply for a Certificate of Eligibility for Specialist Registration (CESR). In addition, funding has enabled the creation of a national network of Education Advisers (who are themselves SAS doctors or dentists) to support local SAS doctors and dentists, and to guide them (and their employing Health Boards) to make best use of this funding opportunity.

For more information see our page on the SAS Development Fund application process.

SAS Development Programme Courses and Events

The SAS Development Programme continually offers a range of national training courses and regional educational events, as well as an annual national conference for Scottish SAS. Details of national events are viewable on our training calendar, while regional events are promoted by email through the relevant SAS Education Adviser (click here to find the Education Adviser for your health board).

All SAS Programme courses and events are free to attend and are typically certified for Continuing Professional Development (CPD) points, awarded via attendance certificate. The SAS Training Calendar page will indicate whether an event is virtual or in-person and will feature links for registration when available. Virtual events are run via Microsoft Teams unless stated otherwise.


Other information:

Royal Colleges & Faculties

The 23 Medical Royal Colleges in the United Kingdom are the professional membership organisations committed to enabling its members and fellows to achieve the highest standards of clinical practice and patient care. In addition the colleges influence and shape future health policies and practice in order to reduce the variability of patient outcomes.

The Academy of Medical Royal Colleges (AoMRC) further co-ordinates all medical Royal Colleges as its members to help ensure consistency across all specialties. https://www.aomrc.org.uk/about-us/academy-members/

The SAS committees of individual Royal Colleges work with the college and its council to promote all matters relating to doctors and dentists working in SAS posts and other related roles. The SAS committee of AoMRC brings together chairs of individual Royal Colleges SAS committees to share the examples of good practice and promote professional representation and development of SAS doctors and dentists. https://www.aomrc.org.uk/sas-doctors/

The aims of the SAS Committees are:

  • To advise Council, and/or its Committees on all matters relating to doctors working in SAS (Staff and Associate Specialist) posts and other related roles.
  • To act as the College’s focal point for SAS Doctors on issues and concerns within the College’s sphere of influence.
  • To promote access to education and training and facilitate professional development of SAS doctors and dentists.
  • Facilitate the career development of SAS doctors by facilitating their involvement with the delivery of training, examinations and involvement with local and national management roles

The SAS committees of all medical Royal College encourage and welcome all its members and fellows for any feedback and advice related to SAS doctors and dentists. All SAS committees have huge number of educational resources on their websites and can be contacted via the individual college.

SAS Contracts

Make sure to check that you are on the correct contract, with correct number of hours.

Please see our own Job Planning page for relevant links.

BMA guidance on SAS contracts in Scotland is also available, featuring a model contract, terms and conditions of service for Specialty Doctors, and a Frequently Asked Questions document. Please note that the Associate Specialist post is a “closed” grade, and it is not currently possible to be regraded to become an Associate Specialist.

Doctors should be aware that NHS basic indemnity for clinical negligence claims does not cover legal advice and support for any other processes (GMC, coroner or criminal), and are therefore advised to arrange their own additional Medical Protection cover with one of the Medical Defence Organisations.

Job Planning

One of your first tasks is to agree a job plan with your Clinical Lead or Clinical Director (CD); BMA advice on job planning is available here, including guidance on on-call and SPA time for SAS grades. If, with time, it is clear that your plan is not working out, you may wish to ask for a job plan review earlier than the standard annual review. You should ensure that you get adequate SPA time in order to go through appraisal and revalidation.

Contractually all SAS doctors are entitled to a minimum of 1 SPA. The balance between SPA time and other work will be determined locally and will be set out in your job plan.

Click here for full BMA information on SPA time.

Details of the new contracts, with example contracts and salary scales are all available at: Specialty Doctors & Specialist Doctors | MSG (scot.nhs.uk)

BMA also has information at their webpage New Scottish SAS contracts (bma.org.uk). If you are a BMA member, you can contact them for further guidance.


Useful points in the terms and conditions:

Annual leave: Make sure you apply for annual leave with adequate notice; discuss with your Clinical Lead how it is applied locally. Most departments require 6 weeks' notice, but some require more, depending on rotas and other local issues. As a Specialty Doctor you are entitled to 5 weeks' annual leave for first two years, except where the immediate previous post had a 6 week entitlement, in which case 6 weeks applies. Annual leave allocation is 6 weeks in subsequent years. This is in addition to eight public holidays and two statutory holidays or days in lieu thereof. The two statutory days may, by local agreement, be converted to a period of annual leave.

Study leave: The recommended standard is leave with pay and expenses or time off in lieu with expenses within a maximum of 30 days (including off-duty days falling within the period of leave) in any period of three years for professional purposes within the United Kingdom. You need to apply to your Clinical Lead for this time off, giving adequate notice. Any grant of leave is subject to the need to maintain NHS services.

SAS Charter - Rights and Responsibilities

SAS Charter for Scotland (updated May 2024) has been developed jointly by the British Medical Association (BMA) Scotland, the Management Steering Group (MSG) including NHS Scotland employers and the Scottish Government Health and Social Care Directorate (SGHSCD). It sets out both the rights and responsibilities of SAS doctors and their employers, with a commitment to support and enable SAS doctors to realise their full clinical potential to deliver the best patient care.


Annual appraisal is a contractual obligation for all doctors employed by, or contracted with, an NHS Board. In NHS Scotland this is conducted through the Scottish Online Appraisal Resource (SOAR), whose website features contacts and guidance on the process. All doctors are asked to reflect and review the entirety of their practice (since their last appraisal meeting), provide the relevant supporting information and complete the appraisal forms which will shape the discussions with the Appraiser.

New Medical Appraisal Guidance for Scotland was published by the Scottish Government, December 2021. The document aims to provide guidance regarding the structures and processes that are required to deliver
medical appraisal in Scotland.

Everyone should contact their Health Board Appraisal Admin lead to ensure they are allocated an Appraiser. If you are not sure who the Appraisal Admin person is in your Health Board, please ask your Clinical Lead / Clinical Director. The appraisal system will enable you to be revalidated. SOAR FAQ on appraisal

You will need to undertake Multi-Source Feedback at least every 5 years, and ideally also if you are due to go through a threshold in the Specialty Doctor/Dentist contract. For more information on Multi-Source Feedback please see this NES webpage.

This document SAS Doctors - Information for Appraisers has been shared via the Territorial Health Board Appraisal leads, therefore we would anticipate that your Appraiser should already have access to it. However, you may wish to check that your Appraiser has seen it when scheduling your Appraisal meeting, and you also can refer to the document yourself.

Between April and May 2021 the SAS Development Programme team asked all SAS-grade doctors and dentists from across NHS Scotland to take part in a survey about their recent experiences of the Appraisal process, with just under 10% of the SAS workforce in Scotland completing the survey. You can read the report of the results here: SAS Appraisal Results 2021: Scotland-wide

Given the essential nature of the Appraisal process in terms of professional development, the team was keen to understand its effectiveness, where any improvements might be introduced and how they could support these. A key conclusion of the survey was that preparedness is central to getting the best out of the process, and as such a Guide to Preparing for your Appraisal has been produced to assist SAS grades with this, focusing in particular on:

  • Career Development
  • Entry/Re-entry to Training
  • Portfolio Pathway (formerly CESR)
  • Extended Roles
  • How to create an effective PDP

The AoRMC have also produced a document as of August 2021, Supporting appraisal for the SAS workforce, on proposed improvements to the existing system.

Your SAS Education Adviser can offer support to discuss relevant PDP activities which may attract SAS Development funding.


Remember to record your CPD throughout the year – many Royal Colleges allow you to join (some as an associate member) and keep a CPD log. This makes Appraisal much easier!

SAS dentists who are registered with the GDC are required to complete 10 hours of verifiable CPD every 2 years and log activity yearly. Further information is available here: https://www.gdc-uk.org/professionals/cpd

Portfolio Pathway to Specialist Registration (formally CESR)

For information on the Portfolio Pathway to Specialist Registration specifically, please see our Portfolio Pathway/CESR for SAS Grades page

Please note that the Portfolio Pathway is not applicable to SAS dentists, who are not registered with the GMC.


Click on the links below for useful SAS careers resources for your development:

Support for International Medical Graduates (IMG)

The Scotland Deanery welcomes doctors who have qualified outside the United Kingdom (UK) who wish to come to Scotland to work. Each year, doctors from all over the world come to the UK to train and work in NHS Scotland, including to take up Specialty Doctor roles. There’s a wealth of information and support available on the Scotland Deanery webpage for IMGs. The induction day, IMG Support Network and the opportunity to be paired with a buddy are open to those working in the SAS grade too. The team are also seeking volunteers to act as buddy for those new IMG doctors, so this could be something you may wish to help with at a later date.

NHS Employers have produced a guide for International Medical & Dental Graduates on working and training in the UK, viewable at this link; while it's in reference to NHS England, much of the information is applicable for Scotland as well.

Leadership Skills

NES's Faculty Development Alliance (FDA) team offers a two-part Leadership and Management Programme workshop (LaMP), and Scottish SAS wishing to attend can apply to the SAS Development Programme for reimbursement of the £150 attendance fee and reasonable travel costs; please email SASDevelopment@nes.scot.nhs.uk for more information.

Several free online resources are also available regarding development of leadership skills for senior clinicians:

NHS Leadership Academy

Faculty of Medical Leadership and Management

NHS HEE e-Learning for Healthcare: Management and Leadership

Webinar recording: Leadership, Culture and Wellbeing by Dr Dave Caesar, Interim Deputy Chief Medical Officer, Scottish Government

Project Lift website: Supporting leadership at all levels and at all stages, in all roles across Health and Social Care in Scotland.


The GMC are the regulator for doctors and they work to protect patient safety and support medical education and practice across the UK. They do this by working with doctors, employers, educators, patients and other key stakeholders in the UK's healthcare systems. Find out more about their work here.

Welcome to UK Practice is a free workshop designed to help doctors new to the UK, by offering practical guidance about ethical scenarios you may encounter, and providing the chance to connect with other doctors coming from abroad. You can book onto available courses here.

The GMC also have a decision making tool to help you know what to do if you have a concern about patient safety.

Other GMC webpages that may be of interest:

Welcomed and valued - Supporting disabled learners in medical education and training

Ethical hub - GMC guidance on good conduct for doctors, including remote consultations, social media, raising concerns, and how to approach treatment for vulnerable patients e.g. those with learning disabilities, older adults, and those with limited mental capacity.

Your Wellbeing

Look after yourself and you will be better able to look after your patients. Doctors tend to underuse health services; the empathy we extend to others does not always tally with the care we give ourselves. There are many sources of support available for you. 

For work related issues, try and seek support from a member of your team if possible. Your SAS Education Adviser may be able to guide you.

Funding is in place so that Wellbeing Support Services, run by the BMA, are open to all doctors. They are confidential and free of charge. Call 0330 123 1245 and you will have the choice of speaking to a counsellor or taking details of a doctor who you can contact for peer support. The counselling service is staffed by professional telephone counsellors, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. All counsellors are members of the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy and are bound by strict codes of confidentiality and ethical practice. Ongoing counselling is available.

The counsellors are there to help you deal with a variety of issues. By seeking constructive help you may identify ways of addressing the root causes of your concerns and develop strategies to reduce the impact of the consequences.

If you are an unpaid carer, you may be interested in Caring for unpaid carers | Turas | Learn. All boards should be at engagement level as a carer positive workplace.

Surviving in Scrubs is an organisation founded by doctors to highlight and challenge the issues of sexism, harassment, and sexual assault in the medical workplace.


If you have any concerns about patient safety and malpractice and would like to find out more on how to raise these, please visit the workforce policies website for more information.

Bullying and Harassment Policy: guide for employee complainants

Click here to download the guide in pdf. 

This guide forms part of the standard for workforce policies that apply to all staff within NHS Scotland regardless of which Board they are employed by. There is helpful advice on telling the difference between appropriate behaviours, and bullying and harassment as well as some tools you might like to use.

It also suggests who you can approach for confidential advice, and the initial steps you should take.

  • Speak to the person to inform them that their behaviour is unacceptable
  • Write to the individual
  • Speak with a manger to gain support to approach the other party
  • Supported conversation
  • Mediation

Where these approaches are unsuccessful or the behaviours are serious and / or persistent you can formally raise a complaint in writing with the appropriate manager.

More information can be found on workforce policies website.

The SAS Programme has recently carried out a survey into the experience of SAS in the workplace  viewable at this link, as well as offering training to Scottish SAS grades to ensure that SAS feel empowered and know how to raise concerns in their boards. It is essential that all staff are valued and supported. NES has been building its suite of resources on TURAS Learn, noting that training of all staff groups is essential to help reduce incidents of bullying, harassment and undermining. The SAS Programme would welcome any feedback and suggestions at SASDevelopment@nes.scot.nhs.uk

This page was last updated on: 27.06.2024 at 14.40