25 June 2024

Let’s change the narrative on SAS doctors

Dr Aziz (1)

‘I consider my appointment as RCP SAS lead to be a huge honour’

I graduated from medical school in Pakistan in 1987 and my first NHS job was in the Scottish Highlands. In 2001, I moved to south-east Wales as a staff grade doctor in elderly care medicine and rehabilitation, and later became an associate specialist. While many colleagues have followed the Certificate of Eligibility for Specialist Registration (CESR) route (now known as the portfolio pathway), I am still working in the same department at Aneurin Bevan University Health Board (ABUHB) as an SAS doctor.

By the time I joined the NHS, I was in my late 30s, with a growing family. My children needed stability, and I chose to prioritise their education. I didn’t want to enter a national training scheme that would require me to rotate through different hospitals or even move between health boards.

I was appointed as SAS advocate for ABUHB in 2021, and in 2023 I became clinical director for my department, where the majority of my departmental colleagues are SAS doctors. I am also a clinical and educational supervisor, an appraiser for doctors in secondary care, and I have completed the training to be a responsible officer. You can read more about how ABUHB has supported SAS doctors here.

Being one of very few SAS doctors working in senior leadership in the NHS, I want to use my experience to support the RCP to raise the profile of an SAS career. Being a clinical lead with an SAS contract should not be the exception. All senior SAS doctors should be afforded similar opportunities for career advancement, and the introduction of the new specialist post brings both challenges and opportunities for the workforce.

‘I passionately believe that being an SAS doctor is a very worthwhile alternative to a consultant career’

This is a view shared by the RCP, and upon taking up the role of SAS lead for the college, I have enjoyed learning so much about the RCP’s support for SAS doctors and their professional development – I’m especially proud to say we were recently the first medical royal college to endorse the SAS Collective campaign.

The RCP SAS strategy due to be refreshed later this year, and I am looking forward to working with colleagues across our SAS regional network to develop new guidance on autonomous practice for SAS doctors. I’m also keen to explore how the RCP can support more SAS doctors to apply for senior clinical and leadership roles.  

Most recently, the college has published new educational and career support guidance for SAS doctors, which sets out how employers and clinical leads should create a high-quality local training pathway for SAS doctors. I’m hopeful that we can use this guidance as a starting point to reach out to locally employed doctors who would like to join the SAS workforce. After all, early career SAS or locally employed doctors should not be penalised or put at a disadvantage because they are not on a national training programme – there is no such thing as a ‘non-training’ doctor.

‘SAS doctors, I strongly urge you to join the RCP and help us make a difference’

SAS doctors and their locally employed colleagues have historically been considered a lost tribe in the NHS. Neglected, undervalued and not recognised for the hard work that they put in, they are the backbone of the NHS. After 25 years as an SAS doctor, I fundamentally believe that it’s time to change this narrative. There is strength in unity.

Dr Naeem Aziz FRCP
RCP SAS lead
Associate specialist physician


‘Being an RCP SAS representative has been an extremely rewarding role’

I have been the RCP SAS regional representative in Severn for the past 5 years, which has been a great opportunity to learn more about the college and see first-hand the RCP’s support for SAS doctors: it’s been an extremely rewarding role.

Working with RCP regional advisers means that I have a much greater understanding of the college’s role and priorities, and has allowed the SAS voice to be heard loud and clear. Developing a local SAS network in south-west England has been a really positive experience, allowing us to share good practice and information. We have been able to challenge outdated views and promote initiatives like the RCP SAS strategy and fellowship of the college. On a personal level, opportunities to chair regional meetings, speak at RCP events and participate in RCP SAS week have given me the confidence to take on other roles and develop my career further.

Ultimately, joining the SAS regional representatives network gives you an opportunity to have a voice and shape the future direction at the college. I’d really love to encourage the next generation of SAS doctors to take on these vitally important roles.

It’s time for me to stand down; is it time for you to step up? Please consider applying for an SAS regional representative role. Find out more.

Dr Sarah Mungall
SAS regional representative for Severn
Associate specialist physician

Dr Naeem Aziz

SAS lead

Dr Aziz

Dr Sarah Mungall


Dr Sarah Mungall 0