Update regarding ST3 recruitment

Published: 29/10/2021

We promised to update you at the end of this week on conversations we have been having with the Anaesthetics National Recruitment Office (ANRO) and Health Education England (HEE), which manages ANRO, following on from ANRO’s handling of recruitment information for ST3 anaesthetic training posts.

This week, RCoA President Dr Fiona Donald met with HEE Medical Director Professor Wendy Reid. Russell Ampofo, RCoA Director of Education, Training and Examinations, has been speaking to HEE’s Deputy Director responsible for National Recruitment, and the Recruitment Manager in the Midlands, to understand the scale of the problem and the underlying issues that caused it.

Our points are clear: members deserve an explanation from ANRO and HEE about what went wrong, timely assurances of fair and equitable mitigating steps that ANRO is putting in place, and a guarantee that urgent action will be taken to ensure that these errors cannot be repeated.

At their meeting, Professor Reid gave Dr Donald assurances that none of the doctors who were told they had jobs that were then rescinded would be disadvantaged. However, we are aware that for some people there have been conflicting information and assurances.

We have heard of other issues and concerns about ANRO’s communications with applicants. These are not acceptable. We continue to advocate on members’ behalf for transparent decisions and clear communication.

Yesterday we also received reports from applicants who received further confusing communications from the national recruitment portal. These were immediately raised at the highest level in HEE yesterday evening.  Again, we feel that this repeated error is not acceptable. We note that HEE and ANRO are in the process of honouring the offers that were made and have confirmed with us that they will be seeking to speak to and support the affected applicants.

As set out in our joint statement with the Association of Anaesthetists this week, we are calling for an urgent review into why some ST3 candidates’ job offers were rescinded, some had additional communications and some received a final outcome that was different to the one displayed earlier in the day.  We expect to be fully involved and consulted as part of the investigations. We have received assurances from ANRO and HEE that these reviews will take place in the coming weeks, and that the College and Association will be involved in order to represent our shared memberships.

We would also like to take this opportunity to clarify a separate point regarding recruitment. We have been actively seeking to understand how 100 additional posts that were proposed by HEE in September 2021 will be funded and filled, including in a letter before the end of round 3 recruitment last week. We have now suggested, given there is now no time to include these posts in Round 3, that they be pushed forward to the next ST4 recruitment round for Feb 2023. We are awaiting a reply.

Several questions have been asked of the College over the past few days about the relationship it has with ANRO. To be clear, ANRO is not part of, nor is it governed by, the College in any way. It is not an arms-length body of the College. There is an explanation of the relationship on the RCoA website which reads as follows:

The Royal College of Anaesthetists (RCoA) is the professional body that oversees anaesthetists and anaesthetists in training in the UK. It is responsible for setting standards for training. Recruitment is integral to upholding training standards and making sure the right doctors are selected to the speciality. Therefore a group of experienced anaesthetic consultants sit on the RCoA Recruitment Advisory Group (RAG), the chair of which represents us as stakeholders to HEE/Anaesthetics National Recruitment Office (ANRO) and the Medical and Dental Recruitment and Selection (MDRS).

ANRO sits within HEE West Midlands and is the responsible organisation for overseeing the whole of the national recruitment process for CT1 anaesthesia, ACCS anaesthesia and ST3 anaesthesia. They dictate the policy and procedural formalities from job advert to interview offer. ANRO liaise with local education offices and recruitment leads to coordinate and deliver recruitment. They feedback to the RAG on fill rates, appeals, complaints and guide the recruitment process.

We are aware that the ANRO website says that it works on the College’s behalf. This is inaccurate and we are asking ANRO to change this. However, as previously stated, we do see ANRO as a stakeholder with which we must work for the interests of our members and the broader specialty to get things right.

While the recent problems have caused anxiety for those affected, we are warmed by actions taken by our anaesthetic community. We are proud to see colleagues rally around those who have been affected by last week’s ST3 recruitment issues. College Tutors and supervisors have been supporting trainees and contacting us on their behalf and individuals who reached out to offer support to candidates. Staff in our exams and training teams have also been in correspondence with members, and all concerns put to us have been represented to HEE and ANRO, to ensure those organisations have a clear understanding of the impact that this has had on people.

Dr Fiona Donald

President, Royal College of Anaesthetists