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​Highlighting the vital work of SAS doctors and dentists

13 October 2022

Speciality and Associate Specialist (SAS) grade dentists play an important role in the smooth functioning of hospital dental/Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery (OMFS)/Oral surgery departments across the country. We welcome the opportunity to highlight the critical role of all SAS dentists and doctors during SAS week, running from 10 October. This is a joint event with NHS Employers, in partnership with the British Medical Association, to promote and highlight the expertise of SAS doctors and dentists.

Along with their medical colleagues, SAS dentists are a consistent presence in hospital departments, establishing continuity and stability within teams and playing an important role in teaching, management, and quality improvement. The level of experience varies from completion of Dental Core Training up to and including senior clinicians. They have a critical role in delivering a wide range of services in hospital departments throughout the UK, for example with supporting OMFS and oral surgery. 

SAS posts are one of the potential career options available to middle year career dentists. The posts offer a unique chance to gain hands-on experience as well as improving a dentist's portfolio through teaching and clinical governance activities. Having a varied range of clinical interests results in a role which enriches departments and contributes to excellence in patient care.

Within their roles, SAS dentists can be clinical and educational supervisors, training programme directors, dental deans, and clinical leads. They can construct and deliver training both locally, regionally, and nationally and be SAS tutors. SAS dentists can also ensure continuity, quality improvement and stability in teams where the junior workforce frequently moves between posts. Many undertake postgraduate qualifications, are widely published in peer-reviewed journals, and are members of royal colleges and specialist societies through which they have helped to shape their profession. 

The BDA's Central Committee for Hospital Dental Services (CCHDS) is proud to represent SAS dentists. The Committee includes six elected SAS grade dentists and works hard on behalf of hospital dentists across the UK on key issues such as contracts and career development. Within the BDA, SAS grades have senior roles to play in improving working lives for hospital dentists, and there have been SAS grade presidents at both regional and national level.

Although crucial to the hospital environment, the role can sometimes go unrecognised. Important progress has been made over recent years in advancing the critical role of SAS doctors and dentists but there remains much to do in terms of ensuring educational opportunities (including teaching opportunities), ensuring career progression at all levels up to management, and delivering further recognition of autonomous working. We remain determined to campaign for improved pay and conditions for SAS dentists, to take steps to improve their morale and to ensure that the SAS charter is fully delivered upon for dentists and doctors. 

Nonetheless, SAS celebration week is an important opportunity to celebrate the vital contribution of SAS dentists to the NHS and their patients, as well as ensuring that their role is more widely understood. We therefore encourage you to use this week to highlight, celebrate and promote the valuable work of SAS grade dentists.