SAS doctors report lack of time for professional development

Authors: Helen Jaques 

Publication date:  15 Jun 2012

Many staff, associate specialist, and specialty (SAS) doctors do not have time for continuing professional development, and a fifth have been refused study leave, a survey by the BMA has found.

Although around half (56%) of the 361 SAS doctors who responded to the online survey had one supporting professional activity (SPA) spot a week in their job plan, in line with the specialty doctor and associate specialist contracts introduced in April 2008, almost a fifth (18%) had less than one SPA.

A third (34%) of respondents were not able to use their entire SPA time, saying that the lack of time was most often a result of clinical workload (90% of these respondents) and administration and meetings (62%).

The Academy of Medical Royal Colleges has recommended that hospital doctors need a minimum of 1.5 SPAs a week to stay up to date for revalidation, not including annual study leave.

Just over a fifth (22%) of respondents reported having had study leave refused previously, and a third (34%) did not automatically receive full funding with any approved study leave application. Respondents reported taking an average 6.3 days of study leave in 2011.

The survey also found that most SAS doctors are involved in training and appraisal of other doctors and medical students. However, around half had experienced barriers to doing appraisal and training, with lack of time the reason most often cited.

SAS doctors were most likely to be involved in the training of junior doctors (88%) and medical students (84%). More than half (57%) also provided training and development to other SAS doctors, and more than a third (38%) were involved in training consultant colleagues.

Roughly half of the respondents reported barriers to becoming more involved in training (55%) and appraisal (53%), with lack of time, not being on a specialist register, and having no support from their employer the barriers most commonly cited.

All 5629 BMA members who are SAS doctors were invited to take part in the online survey. The BMA has warned that the low response rate (6.4%) and the low number of respondents who qualified outside the European Union mean that the results may not be representative of the UK SAS workforce as a whole.

Helen Jaques news reporter BMJ Careers

Cite this as BMJ Careers ; doi: