FAQs Anaesthetics Specialty Recruitment 2021

In response to the Health Education England (HEE) recruitment webinar on October 21st 2020, a number of questions were raised by our trainees that were not addressed at the time by HEE leads. We felt it was important to answer these questions and concerns during this period of uncertainty. Individual questions have been collated into common themes.

1. What is the difference between the RCOA, HEE/ANRO and the MDRS?

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. 

The MDRS sub group are part of HEE with representation from all 4 nations’ Statutory Education Bodies within the UK, plus BMA and Academy of Medical Royal Colleges trainee representation. They ensure that standards in delivery of recruitment across all specialities are equitable and fair.  

2. Why has the recruitment window for ST3 been changed? 

MDRS have extended the recruitment window for all specialties to allow more time for scheduling shortlisting and digital interview processes. Running remote recruitment processes such as online portfolio verification and digital interviews takes more time than face to face selection centres where many candidates can be assessed in one day through multiple selection streams. Experience gained from the recent recruitment rounds in anaesthetics, confirms that contingency arrangements need to be put in place in order to ensure that processes are successful. Administrators in ANRO and consultant assessors went above and beyond in the latest recruitment rounds to get the tasks completed in an extremely short timeline. A longer recruitment window will allow trainees more time for taking part in shortlisting processes, and more flexibility in scheduling interview slots within the recruitment window. 

In anaesthetics, the verification of the portfolio and face to face interview presented a number of challenges in virtual delivery. To make it fair to all trainees, RAG decided to give all potential CT1 and ST3 Doctors that applied an opportunity to have their Portfolio verified. Compared to verifying portfolio at interview, this process created additional steps to allow time to submit, upload and then assess the information. Time was also allocated for trainees to appeal the assessment, appeals were assessed for eligibility, appeals process conducted and decisions made. 

MDRS have brought the window forward to give more time for the overall recruitment process for all specialties. It was not possible to extend the window at the end of the originally designated time as the administrative processes to put doctors/ anaesthetists in post by August changeover is significant. Extending the recruitment window later would have had an impact on anaesthetists and hospitals not knowing who was coming to them, and potential for not completing necessary HR checks prior to start dates in August.  

3. Will trainees applying for ST3 have the opportunity to score points for planned events that are due to take place after the self-score is submitted?

We recognise that trainees have planned events in the pipeline and these do not necessarily fit with the timeline that has been presented to them. It has been the case previously that all self-score evidence needs to be available at the time the self-score is assessed. The document upload window ends on Jan 27th 2021 and trainees will be allowed to submit until this deadline. These scores will then be used to shortlist applicants for available interview slots so cannot be changed after the submission deadline. 

4. Why is the RCOA always communicating later than HEE/ANRO?

The RCoA does not oversee or administer the recruitment process and therefore cannot release the information to trainees. The information is always delivered by the responsible body. The RCoA recognise that during the COVID pandemic there have been difficulties providing relevant information to trainees on a timely basis and the College are making every effort to improve communications to all trainees, where possible. For the August 2021 recruitment round, detailed information and relevant web links have been circulated through College trainee networks and groups within 24 hours of MDRS announcements. The College has also communicated via our representative groups over email, on the College website, College Careers day, the National Recruitment Stakeholders meeting and recent College Tutors meeting where representatives from all local education bodies and recruitment leads were privy to the potential changes.

5. Why are we using the Multi-Specialty Recruitment Assessment (MSRA) for CT1? 

The MSRA is a multi-specialty test that allows assessment of attributes that we would normally assess by other means in a face to face selection centre, through the clinical and presentation stations. The MSRA assessment is blueprinted to applied medical knowledge and professional values expected of a Foundation Year 2 doctor working in the NHS and it has been run successfully with a number of other large specialities, with robust evidence supporting the reliability and validity of the assessment for CT1 recruitment. There is data from previous CT1 anaesthesia applicants who took the test as part of applications to other specialties; this data shows that MSRA scores have a strong association with performance at anaesthesia selection centres in 2019 and 2020, supporting its use as a shortlisting method.  For anaesthetics CT1 recruitment, the MSRA will be used to rank all applicants to the available interview slots and make a minor contribution to the overall selection score, when combined with digital interview. 

6. Can candidates know the self-assessment cut off scores in advance for interview?

There is no defined cut off score. There are a limited number of interview slots and this dictates who is interviewed over and above actual score. Trainees are ranked according to score and the ‘cut off‘ therefore becomes the person in the last slot.

7. How do you ensure remote self-assessment is standardised?

All portfolios are assessed by experienced portfolio assessors. The assessors receive a standardised national briefing on the scores and detailed guidance on scoring. There is also a mechanism in place whereby 2 members of RAG are available for the whole period of the online verification for assessors to query any points on scoring.

It is recognised that translating a face to face process to an online verification has had some challenges. A detailed guidance document for trainees on how to present their portfolios on the online platform will be available shortly.

8. Candidates that are marked down by more than 5 points are allowed to appeal but candidates that are marked down by less are not - if the 1 mark down means that a candidate does not get an interview how can they appeal this? 

We understand there were some concerns about the appeals process, especially with candidates who are close to the interview threshold at shortlisting and we are in discussion with ANRO regarding this.  

9. Concerns have been raised over using a single interviewer as backup in Plan B

This has been addressed by a statement put out by the RCoA on October 22nd 2020 - link here 

10. Why does the full FRCA Primary not get points/extra credit?

We recognise that trainees have worked incredibly hard to sit and pass the Primary FRCA within the tight timeline in core training which takes focus and commitment to the speciality. However, it would be unfair to penalise candidates who could have sat the exam within the timelines but where the examination has been cancelled or postponed. Given the uncertainty with exam delivery should there be a second wave of the pandemic we have decided to keep the full Primary FRCA out of the person specification and the self-score. All trainees appointed without the full primary FRCA will  need to pass the Primary within their ST3 year which is in line with requirements of the new 2021 curriculum. Failure to achieve this will lead to a training extension as outlined in The Gold Guide for specialty training.

11. Will 48 months max experience in anaesthesia for ST3 be increased in light of the effects of Covid on exams and recruitment?

48 months maximum experience is listed in the Person Specification for ST3 as desirable criteria but not essential; trainees with over 48 months experience are not deducted points for this in the selection process.

The full Primary FRCA has been removed from the Person Specification and replaced with ‘Primary FRCA MCQ’ by time of interview due to the difficulties trainees have faced with cancellation of exams and implementation of online examinations. 

12. Does ACCS medicine/ED count as time in complementary specialty?

Yes - the 6 months of medicine and 6 months of ACCS count as complementary speciality training

13. Do online courses count towards points in the courses section of the self-score? 

Yes. We recognise that delivery of courses has been disrupted during COVID.
A list of  RCoA CPD credited events are found on this link 

7 CPD points will count as one course.

Click here for the letter from Anaesthetists in Training Committee regarding recruitment 2021