Development funding for SAS doctors in England drops by £1.1mBMJ 2013; 347 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.f5268 (Published 22 August 2013) Cite this as: BMJ 2013;347:f5268
Professional development funding for staff, associate specialist, and specialty (SAS) doctors in England has fallen by £1.1m (14%) over the past four years (2010-11 to 2013-14), figures from Health Education England show.
In 2008 the Department of Health made £12m of recurrent funding available for the professional development of SAS grade doctors and dentists in England. This money supports SAS doctors in training and career development activities, such as leadership training, mentoring, appraisal, and clinical skills acquisition or consolidation.
The amount of development funding available to SAS doctors has fallen over the past four years in eight of 11 regions in England.⇓ The biggest drop in funding was in the East Midlands, where the budget plummeted from £616 000 in 2010-11 to £39 000 in 2013-14.
Funding in London and in the Kent, Surrey, and Sussex region has more than halved over the past four years (by 54% and 53%, respectively), and funding in the North West has fallen by a quarter (25%).
SAS doctors in Wessex, Yorkshire and the Humber, the West Midlands, and the South West have also seen drops in development funding. Funding in the Thames Valley and in the East of England has remained unchanged since 2010-11. The only region to record an increase in development funding for SAS doctors was the North East, where the budget rose by 2% from £591 000 in 2010-11 to £601 000 in 2013-14.
The BMA has been concerned for some time that development funding for SAS doctors is being eroded, said Radhakrishna Shanbhag, chairman of the association’s SAS Doctor Committee.
“Because SAS doctors are not in training, we do not have anything specifically set aside for our development needs,” he said. “We can’t depend on study leave, which is at the vagaries of trust boards. For us, our professional development is dependent on this funding, because we do not have any other protected monies.”
He said that funding for SAS doctors was seen as a soft target by hospital trusts looking to make cuts to balance their books amid the wider financial squeeze on the NHS. Some areas were “notorious” for cutting funding for SAS doctors, he said, so doctors were avoiding jobs in those regions. “Individual doctors see [this funding] as an opportunity to forward their career,” he said. “If professionally you can’t develop, if your region is not going to help you, why would people go there?”
Health Education England has said that the funding figures related to decisions made by strategic health authorities before it came into being in April this year. It received a budget this year of nearly £5bn that has been distributed among the health education boards it oversees, previously known as local education and training boards (LETBs).
A spokesman for Health Education England said, “It is for the LETBs to ensure they undertake robust and detailed risk assessments in terms of where best to invest their finances while continuing to improve the quality of education and training outcomes to meet the needs of patients, the public, and service providers.
“This includes local decisions about development funding for SAS doctors.”
At the BMA’s conference for SAS doctors earlier this year, Ian Cumming, chief executive of Health Education England, said that he would make it mandatory for local education committees to consider appropriate and equitable access to continuing professional development for SAS doctors.1