For the first time, we’ve launched a survey dedicated to gathering the views of specialty and associate specialist (SAS) and locally employed doctors from across the UK.

Here, Nico Kirkpatrick, our Assistant Director for Education Operations, discusses how we developed the survey, and why it’s important that as many eligible doctors as possible take part.

SAS and locally employed doctors make a huge contribution to health services across the UK. Although one in six doctors on the register work in these roles, we know less about their experiences compared with other parts of the medical workforce. 

For some, working as a SAS or locally employed doctor is their chosen career path and one they’re enjoying. They might be taking a break from training or want the flexibility that these roles gives them. But, in recent years we’ve also heard concerning reports of bullying and undermining in the workplace, and limited opportunities to develop and progress in their roles.

Listening to the profession

That’s why we started a conversation with stakeholders to explore how we could most effectively reach out to SAS and locally employed doctors, to help us all gain a better understanding of these issues and the challenges they face.

We thought a survey would be the most effective method, as it would allow us to gather a rich and robust data set that we can use to pinpoint issues. But to check that it would work in practice, in 2018 we ran a number of focus groups, speaking to SAS and locally employed doctors from across all four countries of the UK. We also asked them for their views on potential questions, to ensure anything we developed would be relevant and addressed their key experiences. Following the sessions, it became clear that many thought a survey would be useful and that doctors were experiencing similar issues.

About the survey

On 1 May the first dedicated survey for SAS doctors and LEDs opened. We want to hear from as many eligible doctors as possible, before it closes on 12 June.

We’ve made sure the survey is easy to complete. It should take no more than 15 minutes to fill in and is mobile phone and tablet friendly, so that you can take part while on the move. All your answers will be kept confidential and can only be viewed by members of our surveys team.

As well as questions around professional development and bullying and undermining, the survey also asks about roles and responsibilities, teamwork, burnout, and the certificate of eligibility for specialist registration (CESR) and the certificate of eligibility for GP registration (CEGPR) processes.

Keeping your data confidential

Since launching the survey we’ve had a few questions about why we ask you to provide your GMC number when you’re filling in the survey. We only do this so that we can check you’re eligible to take part, and to save you time entering demographic data that we already hold on the register.

I can assure you that only members of our surveys and research team have access to individual responses. Identifiable answers won’t be shared with other GMC teams, or external bodies and agencies.

We’ll publish the results and key findings later this year, but the information will be presented in an aggregated format so that individuals can’t be identified.

Why we need your support

Our survey isn’t open for much longer. If you haven’t already, I’d urge you to take part. It’s important we gather as much data as possible, across England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales, so that we can create a comprehensive picture of your experiences.

By sharing your feedback you’ll help us to identify what’s working well, and what needs improving. The results will help us, and all those involved in our health services, to identify how we can better support you in the vitally important roles you carry out.

Take part in the survey today. Eligible doctors have until midday on Wednesday 12 June to get involved.