Mr Suddhajit Sen is an Associate Specialist in orthopaedics with a special interest in hand surgery. He currently works at Noble’s Hospital in the Isle of Man and is the SAS tutor for his trust.  

Here, he talks about his experiences of working as a SAS doctor, and why he thinks it’s important for his colleagues to make their voices heard in the GMC’s new survey to help the healthcare system evolve.

More than 45,000 doctors on the medical register are speciality and associate specialist (SAS) or locally employed doctors (LEDs) – that’s nearly one in six of doctors working in health services across the UK.

This diverse group has varying levels of skills and experiences, and make a huge contribution to the NHS. But, in my opinion, they are also one of the most undervalued parts of the workforce.

So, I jumped at the chance to be involved when the GMC hosted a series of focus groups to find out more about SAS doctor and LED experiences. In these sessions, we discussed the positives and challenges of working in these roles, providing information to help it shape its new dedicated survey.

Different views

Throughout my career, I’ve been able to undertake a range of further studies in my speciality. As well as completing postgraduate higher surgical training in Orthopaedics in India, I’ve also achieved a master’s degree in Orthopaedics with research from the University of Dundee, successfully gained my Fellowship of the Royal College of Surgeons (FRCS) in Orthopaedics and completed a fellowship in upper-limb surgery from Wrightington Hospital in Wigan.

When I was re-graded as an Associate Specialist, I was surprised that a senior colleague told me that people would only take me seriously when, or if, I became a consultant. After all, I am a senior clinician with autonomous practice in hand surgery.

But, after comparing the responsibilities and remits of a senior clinician at SAS grade, and how it weighs up against a consultant, it didn’t take me long to realise that there is a huge gap between the aspirations expressed by the BMA charter for SAS doctors and the reality on the ground.

For example, despite delivering the same level of care, senior SAS clinicians often aren’t given the authority to have an impact on patient treatment or have a say in the management of teams in the way that consultants do. This can be extremely demoralising for the individual and, ultimately, a loss for the health services.

Making a difference

During the focus groups with the GMC, we discussed a variety of issues that impact SAS and LEDs on a day-to-day basis, from clinical responsibilities, leadership and management to the lack of recognition, undermining and bullying in the workplace.

We also explored the challenges with the current certificate for specialist registration (CESR) process. As someone who has recently submitted their application, I raised the point there is currently a lack of pragmatism built into the system when gathering evidence, and it needs to evolve.

Providing feedback is the only way that we can influence change, and this new GMC survey is our opportunity to make our voices heard.

Although it’s not promising to change our lives overnight, it does give us the chance to speak for ourselves, champion our cause, and make sure that the GMC and other organisations take notice.

The survey is now open. Please get involved. Together we can remove the prejudices and bring positive changes to our grade of doctors.

Visit our website to find out how you can get involved in the SAS and LED survey.