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Hospital dentistry: Contracts and other issues facing SAS grade dentists

Blog Author John Ho-A-Yun

Blog Date 14/04/2022

​We’re working hard on behalf of hospital dentists across the UK. Here’s an outline of some of the issues facing SAS grade hospital dentists at present, it covers key issues such as contracts and career development, and what we’re doing on your behalf.


Opportunities for SAS career development needed

Traditionally, SAS grades are the group of hospital dentists with the lowest morale. Reasons for this include few educational opportunities, a consequent lack of career progression, and little recognition or autonomous working.

"There remains no access to funding for specialist career development for SAS dentists as it does for medics."
Some of these issues have been mitigated by the SAS development fund. Your SAS Educational Advisor will, in my experience, be happy to help you with funding applications. Some of us have already applied for funding for a variety of courses, from accredited conscious sedation to placement of orthodontic temporary anchorage devices.

However, there remains no access to funding for specialist career development for SAS dentists as it does for medics. The BDA is a stakeholder in developing a more transparent Specialist List Assessed Application process. Development is currently ongoing, and this will hopefully provide a path for more of us to move down this route, and ultimately allow the SAS development fund to be used for this purpose.

New SAS contracts in England, Wales and NI

The new contract in England, Wales and Northern Ireland has brought mixed blessings, including:

  • A pay deal of 3% investment per year over three years to support contract reform
  • A new senior SAS grade to create a clear career framework and give senior doctors the recognition they deserve
  • Work will now be paid at standard rates until 21:00
  • Changes will be made to the redundancy arrangements in England
  • There will be no equivalent right to decline elective work in premium time to the one currently in the associate specialist contract.
"The window to express interest in transferring to the new SAS contracts has been extended."
The BMA has outlined the pros and cons in detailand reviewed the differences between the contract packages for England, Wales and Northern Ireland.

The window of opportunity to express interest in transferring to the new SAS contracts has been extended in England, Northern Ireland and Wales. So far, there have only been low numbers of contractual transfers and disappointment at the lack of career progression to the “specialist” grade. The BDA is actively seeking to discern exactly how this has impacted dental SAS grades.


Ongoing contract negotiations in Scotland 

In Scotland, staff side negotiations are being carried out by the BMA. I sit on the SAS Negotiations Reference Group which informs the negotiating committee directly. Along with another BDA colleague, we continue to provide a strong voice for BDA SAS members.

"For dental SAS grades, you will need to be a BDA member to vote."
Negotiations have faced several delays, perhaps understandably during various stages of the pandemic. They are now under way with intensive negotiations taking place, aiming to conclude later this year. The aim is to work at pace and try to successfully conclude the negotiations over the summer, then present a deal more widely to SAS doctors and employers early in the autumn.

Once the negotiations are concluded, the new contract will be put to a vote. For dental SAS grades, you will need to be a BDA member to vote. So, if you would like your voice heard, as well as BMA union representation, which is exclusively for hospital dentists who are BDA members, join today. Then when the time comes, please exercise your member’s right to vote!


What your representatives are doing 

I’m proud to be the new Lead of the Scottish Hospital Dentists Reference Group (SHDRG), which campaigns on behalf of all hospital BDA members in Scotland. We also input into the BDA Scottish Council and UK hospital committees and BMA equivalents.

We have been advocating from students to consultants and all members in-between. We provided practical help during the pandemic and we continue to press for clarity around the standing up of services and improved hospital terms and conditions.

We also keep a watchful eye on executive level and government decisions: consulting, discussing, negotiating and mitigating where appropriate. The SHDRG has, with other craft committees, pressed the Scottish Government on a range of issues including staffing capacity, oral health inequalities, and the pandemic’s impact on referrals to hospital services.

Indeed, no matter where you live in the UK, BDA representatives are working hard on your behalf. We continue to campaign for your interests at all levels, and I wish each and every one of you, the best as we continue to navigate through the pandemic.

John Ho-A-Yun
BDA SAS representative Scotland; Lead, SHDRG