Guidance for employing bodies on arranging AACs
The RCoA provides representatives, also known as AAC assessors, for consultant anaesthetist and SAS anaesthetist roles. The RCoA AAC team also organises representatives to attend AAC panels on behalf of FICM and FPM and thus should also be contacted regarding consultant Intensivist, consultant pain medicine specialists and related SAS posts.
What is an AAC?
An Advisory Appointments Committee (AAC) is a legally constituted interview panel that is established by an employing body when appointing consultants or SAS doctors. The remit of an AAC is to decide which, if any, of the applicants is suitable for appointment and to make a recommendation to the employing body.
NHS Trusts/Boards are required by the Consultant Appointment regulations, produced by the Department of Health (DH), to include a representative from the appropriate medical college or faculty on the appointment committee.
NHS Foundation Trusts are not required by law to follow the Consultant Appointment regulations. However, they are encouraged by the Academy of Medical Royal Colleges and the Foundation Trust Network to include a representative from the appropriate college or faculty as described in the Concordat between the Academy of Medical Royal Colleges and the Foundation Trust Network. The process for Foundation Trusts to secure a representative of the RCoA, FICM or FPM is the same for all trusts, regardless of their foundation status.
The RCoA encourages all employing authorities to include a representative from the RCoA, FICM or FPM on their interview panels for permanent SAS roles as a point of good practice.
Frequently Asked Questions
All job descriptions should be sent to email@example.com for approval. Guidance on writing a job description is available.
Regional Advisers (RA) will normally provide approval or initial reasons for non-approval within two weeks. If there are significant changes requested by the RA, discussions between the employing authority and the RA may last longer.
Where consultant intensivist jobs are proposed with unspecified second specialty commitments, e.g. anaesthesia, medical specialties and emergency medicine, the employer should also contact the relevant medical royal colleges. Paediatric ICM roles should be sent to the RCPCH in the first instance.
Posts advertised for other specialties, such as rheumatology or neurology, with a component of pain medicine sessions cannot be approved by the FPM. Such posts should be reviewed by their parent specialty.
The process for the appointment to senior academic posts varies slightly from the standard AAC in that responsibility for the approval of the job description is split between the RA and the appropriate university. The RA approves the clinical content and the appropriate university approves the academic requirements of the post. The AAC assessor’s role at the AAC panel is confined to the clinical aspects of the role.
In most circumstances, the RCoA, FICM and FPM will not send a representative if the job description (JD) has not been approved. However, exceptions are made when the only reason for non-approval of the role is the amount of supporting professional activity (SPA) time in the job plan.
The RCoA, FICM and FPM, require a minimum of 1.5 SPAs per week for consultants and specialty doctors to maintain competence and allow revalidation.
We will seek to send a representative to these AAC panels however the employing authorities in this situation should note:
- not all of our assessors are willing to attend panels where the JDs have not been approved for this reason, so it may be more difficult for us to secure a representative
- the assessor or the AAC Chair should check on the day that the candidates are aware if a post is not approved and why. The Chair of the AAC panel should be made aware of this before the day of the interview panel.
The employing authority can appeal directly to the RCoA, FICM or FPM if it considers that the RA has insufficient grounds to refuse to approve a job description. The matter will be referred to the lead AAC Assessors and escalated to the Chair of the relevant committee at RCoA, FICM and/or FPM as appropriate.
RCoA, FICM or FPM approval of a post is valid for one year from the date of approval, provided that there are no significant changes to the job plan.
If any changes occur to the job plan you are required to contact the RCoA for re-approval before advertising the post.
It is recommended that job description approval is sought before the post is advertised. If the employing body advertises before approval is confirmed they should inform any candidates once approval is granted and highlight any changes that have been made in order to gain approval.
You must give us at least 8 weeks’ notice from the date of the panel. The vast majority of our AAC assessors are practising doctors and require this amount of notice to secure leave from their employers.
The RCoA AAC team will still process your request however, you should be aware that the shorter the notice period given, the less likely is it that the team will be able to find a suitable representative for the AAC panel. This means it is more likely that you will have to rearrange the AAC panel date.
The RCoA makes every effort to provide an AAC assessor for the date requested by the employer however, on rare occasions the AAC team will not be able to find a representative for the date requested. In these situations, there are several options:
- The employer is able to suggest a consultant in the appropriate specialty, in good standing with the GMC and RCoA, who is willing to represent the RCoA, FICM and/or FPM as appropriate. In these circumstances, the RCoA AAC team may allow this consultant to act as the representative as long as there are no conflicts of interest. As stated in the NHS Good Practice Guidance, they must not work for the same employing body.
- NHS trusts/boards must rearrange the date of their AAC panel, as without college or faculty representation, the AAC would not be properly constituted as outlined in NHS Good Practice Guidance and any appointment would be open to legal challenge.
- NHS foundation trusts are within their rights to proceed with the AAC Panel as planned, without college or faculty representation. However, this is not recommended as good practice.
To avoid these situations, the RCoA recommends contacting us as soon as the panel date is known and to avoid scheduling panels on dates within the school holidays, when it can be more difficult to find available assessors.
If the assessor is unable to attend and there is insufficient time to assign a new assessor, the information from the above FAQ stands. In some instances, the individual circumstances will be taken into consideration. Please contact the AAC team for further advice.
The AAC assessor should inform the college at the earliest possible time that they will be unable to attend a panel. If they contact the employing body directly then this information should be passed to the AAC administration team. We will endeavour to find a new assessor to attend the panel.
The employing authority pays the AAC assessor’s fee and expenses. The fees that AAC assessors can claim from the employing authority for attending an AAC Panel are set by NHS Employers and can be found in Annex A: Section 11 of the “Pay and Conditions Circular (M&D) 1/2017”.
AAC assessors will claim their actual expenses, including travel, hotel accommodation and other subsistence allowances, in accordance with the rules of the employing authority, from the employing authority concerned as outlined in Section 6 of the NHS Good Practice Guidance.
Full support will be given to any assessor who feels that having given their guidance, the AAC is making a recommendation that conflicts with the maintenance of appropriate standards. Where this action is taken by the employer, the assessor will primarily alert the RCoA Lead AAC Assessors.
If the employing authority has a complaint about the conduct of an AAC assessor, this should be made in writing and sent to firstname.lastname@example.org. This will be reviewed by the Director of Clinical Quality and Research and the lead AAC Assessors in the first instance.
The RCoA, FICM and FPM are not regulators and have few sanctions they can apply if an employer fails to heed its best practice advice in organising an AAC. However, in practice it is rare for RCoA, FICM or FPM advice to go unheeded, as our focus is on assisting the employer to select the best possible candidate for the advertised post and to protect the employer from any subsequent claims by an unsuccessful candidate that the AAC was ill-formed and unjust in its decision making process.