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Looking forward to the challenge

In her first blog for the RCP, the new SAS Committee representative for Northern Ireland, Dr Jeenat Khan reflects on her new role and what she hopes to achieve.

Firstly, I want to thank colleagues across Northern Ireland for giving me the opportunity to represent specialty and associate specialist (SAS) colleagues at the RCP.

Many of you will know that SAS doctors are a significant and experienced part of the medical workforce and make up around 25% of all doctors. They work in non-training senior roles with at least four years of postgraduate medical training. Many SAS doctors have made a positive choice to step into an SAS role, maybe for geographical stability or a better work–life balance. SAS doctors can work towards the certificate of eligibility for specialist registration (CESR) or apply for a training post to become a consultant, although many prefer a career as an SAS doctor.

The GMC has found that 83% of SAS doctors reported 10 or more years in clinical practice. This group of doctors is growing faster than any other and if current trends continue, they will be the largest group in the medical workforce by 2030.

SAS colleagues are also teachers and leaders; alongside our consultant colleagues, we provide continuity of care as permanent staff, and we can offer an experienced voice on service change. Medical students and doctors-in-training can learn so much from the experience and expertise of SAS teachers. Given the extreme strain and challenges currently faced by health services, we need to encourage more of our SAS colleagues into these roles.

What am I hoping to achieve? Retention will continue to be a major challenge so I’m keen to see progress on implementing the SAS charter. Creating more specialist posts could help to reduce waiting times and speed up patient access – I’ll be working with trusts to promote the role of specialist doctor. CESR should be streamlined and made more accessible – I know the GMC is looking at this, and I’ll help the RCP to keep the pressure on. Finally, international medicate graduates (IMGs) often face discrimination – I want to make sure that IMGs get the extra support they need and deserve.

I’m looking forward to the challenge: I know that reaching out to people from different specialties will be interesting and enriching. Now I want to hear your thoughts; together, we can improve service quality and improve career progression for SAS doctors. Ultimately, if our health service is to survive, every member of staff should be supported to thrive.

Dr Jeenat Khan
RCP SAS Committee representative
Northern Ireland