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Staff and Associate Specialists

The College is committed to supporting the increasing proportion of members who are choosing to work in Specialty Doctor/ Dentist, Associate Specialist and Specialist (SAS) roles. A SAS career can offer different options to the higher specialty training pathway.

Background – who are SAS?

SAS doctors work in many specialties and have a diverse skill set and range of experience; from 4 years post registration with only 2 years in a specialty, up to those practicing autonomously at a very senior level.

Since 2008, all newly appointed SAS doctors and dentists have been appointed as either Specialty Doctors or, since 2021 in England, Wales and Northern Ireland only, as Specialist doctors. Scotland is still to conclude its own contract negotiations.

In 2008, the previous Staff Grade and Associate Specialist contracts closed; some Doctors and Dentists remain in these closed grades.

Entry criteria for the current contracts:

  • Specialty Doctor: for those who have full registration with the General Medical Council and have completed at least four years’ full-time postgraduate training (or part-time equivalent), at least two of which will be in a specialty training programme in a relevant specialty or as a fixed term specialty trainee in a relevant specialty, or equivalent experience and competencies.
  • Specialty Dentist: for those who are registered with the General Dental Council and have completed four years’ full-time postgraduate training (or part-time equivalent) since first obtaining registration, including adequate experience in the relevant specialty, or equivalent experience and competencies.
  • Specialist Doctor/Dentist: for those who have full registration with the General Medical/Dental Council. Applicants require to have completed a minimum of 12 years’ medical/dental work (either continuous period or aggregate in full time or part-time employment) since obtaining a primary medical/dental qualification, of which a minimum of 6 years should be in a relevant specialty in the specialty doctor and/or closed SAS grades. Equivalent years’ experience in a relevant specialty from other medical/dental grades including from overseas will also be accepted. Applicants must meet the criteria set out in the generic capabilities’ framework for the specialist grade which has been developed by AoMRC, the BMA and NHS employers.

SAS as a Career

Clinical care generally makes up the majority of SAS doctors’ and dentists’ workload, with individuals often having highly specialised skills within a team.

Many SAS develop additional roles -teaching and training, audit, academic research and service development. SAS may also hold senior leadership and management roles locally and nationally. There are roles for SAS in the College, including on committees and for those appropriately qualified SAS, as examiners.

The training and educational needs of SAS doctors and dentists are therefore distinct from trainees and consultants. It is extremely important that this increasing proportion of the medical workforce is supported appropriately, facilitating development and growth of skills and services throughout the UK.

Joining the College

The College welcomes SAS Doctors and Dentists to join; the College is dedicated to supporting our members with educational tools, CPD-approved clinical and non-clinical training courses and networks to develop professional growth, including The College Mentorship Programme and eLearning.

If you would like to become involved in the work of the College, including developing our SAS committee, or you have comments or suggestions with how the College can help you, please do get in touch.

SAS doctors and dentists can join the College as Associates, Members, or Fellows.

Our Members, Fellows and SAS grade Associate members have free access to the online CPD diary and the app, offered by the Federation of the Royal Colleges of Physicians. The diary helps you maintain a personal, validated record of activities on an annual basis, helpful for your Appraisal and Revalidation.

Details of how to join, including eligibility criteria can be found on the pages below:

Specialist Register

Joining the Specialist Register can be an option for some SAS who may wish to consider applying for Certificate of Eligibility for the Specialist Register (CESR) through the GMC.

More information and guidance for SAS can be found on the NES SAS Development webpages Guidance for SAS Doctors and Dentists or HEE Supporting SAS doctors.

The Academy of Medical Royal Colleges (AoMRC)

The Academy of Medical Royal Colleges (AoMRC) co–ordinates all 23 Medical Royal Colleges as its members to help ensure consistency across all specialties.

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. They have produced a suite of guidance.

SAS College Representative

Dr Lynne Meekison, Associate Specialist in Gastroenterology, and Associate Postgraduate Dean for Scotland and Operational Lead for the NES SAS Development Programme, has been co-opted onto College Council as the SAS Representative for the College. Lynne can be contacted at:

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