Letter from Anaesthetists in Training Committee regarding recruitment 2021

Recruitment into Anaesthesia continues to be affected by the Covid-19 pandemic and a recent blog outlined the effect on recruitment for August 2020 and February 2021.

The next challenge is recruitment for Core, ACCS and Higher specialty training in anaesthesia August 2021 entry – this opens in November 2020. The RCoA’s Recruitment Advisory Group (RAG) reviewed the last two recruitment rounds before making recommendations to the Medical and Dental Recruitment Selection committee (MDRS) regarding this round, with the aim of making recruitment robust in the face of ever-changing challenges created by Covid-19.

Particular issues identified were the controversial MDRS decision to use unverified portfolio self-assessment scores only to appoint to ST3 posts in August 2020, and difficulties with ANRO’s Oriel platform for uploading evidence for the verified portfolios for February 2021 applicants. 

ANRO have undertaken improvements which should make subsequent uploads and portfolio verification easier, and this should make the process smoother for both applicants and assessors for ST3 recruitment.

However, almost twice as many candidates apply for Core training as for Higher specialty training, and RAG had serious concerns that if a verified portfolio score was used for shortlisting the much larger August recruitment round this would again cause problems, which would be to the detriment of all applicants. It was felt the best option was therefore to remove portfolio scoring from the shortlisting process, and allow as many candidates as possible the opportunity to discuss achievements normally presented in the portfolio as part of the interview process. The number of interview slots ANRO can offer will be exceeded by the number of anticipated applicants, so a decision has been made to use the Multi-Speciality Recruitment Assessment (MSRA), already in use or being adopted by other specialities, as part of the shortlisting process for Core training. The vast majority of applicants will be offered an interview based on their MSRA performance, and it will contribute to a small proportion of their overall score.

The RCoA takes the views and representation of Anaesthetists in Training very seriously and two members of the Anaesthetists in Training committee (AiT) are active members of the RAG. The AiT were asked to review the proposals for recruitment and offer comments and concerns before submission to MDRS. In particular, the AiT voiced concerns that for those applying to Core training, who have already experienced much turmoil and uncertainty due to Covid-19, the use of MSRA would be unexpected. Furthermore, prospective candidates would have been working hard over months if not years to develop portfolios in the expectation that these would feature as prominently as in previous years. 

RAG gave our concerns much consideration but they had a responsibility to propose to MDRS the plans they felt were the most robust and deliverable in the face of Covid-19, and would ultimately give the greatest number of applicants the most fool-proof means of applying to our speciality. An explanation of the plans can be viewed in full here.

In addition to the AiT, the Anaesthetists in Training Representative Group (ATRG) is formed of College representatives from each school of anaesthesia. The ATRG have been extremely active in bringing concerns about the recruitment process to the RCoA’s attention.  They have particularly stressed the need for timely and effective communication with anaesthetists in training and trainers.

As a direct result of that feedback, an FAQ document has been produced to attempt to answer some of your concerns and queries and to clarify RCoA, ANRO and MDRS processes which are being implemented for August 2021 recruitment.  
If your questions or concerns are not addressed within this document, please feel free to contact us via your local ATRG rep, whose details can be found on our website

The RCoA takes your views, particularly your criticism, very seriously and all the representatives of anaesthetists in training at the College will make sure your voice is heard. Any feedback you have to offer can help to make recruitment, and other important issues affecting anaesthetists in training, as good as they can be both now and in the future.

The Anaesthetists in Training Committee, Royal College of Anaesthetists

Dr Jamie Strachan, Chair AiT and Elected Member of Council

Dr Sarah Muldoon, Deputy Chair AiT and Elected Member of Council