Guidance for Faculty Assessors on AACs
Assessors are the Faculty's representatives on Advisory Appointment Committees (AACs) and the only statutory external influence on the committee. Their role is vital in ensuring that the standards of dental surgical training and service are maintained.
The Faculty recognises that in order to meet local needs, assessors may sometimes come under considerable pressure to appoint candidates judged to be below the standards expected by the Faculty. In such circumstances, assessors will receive the full support of the Faculty and College.
Below, all information can be found regarding the AAC process.
- Composition of the Advisory Appointment Committee (AAC)
- Roles and responsibilities of the faculty assessor
- Eligibility and appointment
- The appointment process
- Job description and person specification
- Subspecialty interests
- Nominating the faculty assessor
- Conflict of interest
- Selection and shortlisting of candidates
- Guidance regarding consultant posts
- The committee
- Absence of the faculty assessor
- The interview
- After the interview
The core membership of an AAC, as specified in the NHS Regulations Good Practice Guidance 2005, is set out below:
- A lay member (often the chair of the trust or another non-executive director);
- The faculty assessor;
- The chief executive of the appointing body (or a nominated deputy);
- The medical or dental director of the trust (or a nominated deputy);
- A consultant, normally from the relevant specialty; from the employing body;
- If the post includes teaching or research commitments, the committee must include a nominated deputy from the relevant university.
An AAC may not proceed if any core member (or their appointed deputy) is not present.
In cases where the teaching and/or research commitment does not require an additional professional member, the chair should ensure that any interests of the university are represented by one of the other members of the committee.
Trusts are free to add additional members provided there remains a local medical or dental majority and the size of the AAC is kept to a minimum.
The faculty assessor is the formal representative of the FDS of the Royal College of Surgeons of England on AACs for consultants. The faculty assessor is the only statutory external influence on the AAC.
The assessor's role is to ensure that the best candidate for the job is appointed and that the process is fair and open within current legislation and employment practice. Selection must be based on a candidate’s fitness, ie qualifications, experience and - when relevant - suitability as a trainer.
It is the responsibility of the assessor to ensure that only individuals who are fully trained are shortlisted and appointed.
All members of the AAC should be trained in fair and non-discriminatory interviewing and selection techniques. They should also receive appropriate training in the application of equal opportunities legislation to appointment procedures in line with relevant codes of practice.
An assessor must be an established consultant or honorary consultant in the NHS. They must have been in active practice for a minimum of five years and should normally stand down when they retire from active clinical NHS practice. The Faculty may allow an assessor to continue acting in that capacity for a period not exceeding 24 months following retirement from the NHS.
The NHS (Appointment of Consultants) Regulations: Good Practice Guidance (2005) states that the assessor must not be employed by the recruiting trust and should, where possible, be employed by a trust geographically distant from the recruiting trust.
The appointment of assessors is coordinated by the Faculty of Dental Surgery of The Royal College of Surgeons of England.
Members of an AAC will be reimbursed their expenses by the employing body, including travel, hotel accommodation and other subsistence allowances, in accordance with regulations or rules established by the healthcare organisation. Assessors should confirm entitlements with the healthcare organisation before the AAC event.
Job description and person specification
The trust is responsible for planning and preparing the job description and person specification for consultant posts.
What should the job description include?
The job description should include an assessment of the service needs and future demands of the post, including the possibility of relocation when service arrangements are under discussion, together with all the information relevant to the post and selection criteria, which might include the minimum qualifications, training and experience required. It should be clear if the post requires a consultant with a particular subspecialty interest.
It is advisable for the trust to consult with the regional and/or specialty advisor when drawing up the job description as the advisor can provide helpful input based on their knowledge of other consultant posts in the specialty.
The role of the regional and specialty advisors is to comment on the professional content of the job description in relation to clinical, teaching and research work. Non-professional issues (eg the availability of car parking) now come under the regional/specialty advisors remit.
What should the person specification include?
The person specification should list both the essential and desirable skills and experience needed to perform the job, including any subspecialty interest.
Before the consultant post can be advertised, the job description and person specification must be sent to the regional advisor for approval (or RSPA for OMFS posts). The regional advisor is required to consult with the appropriate specialty advisor to approve the post and forward comments to the employing body within 15 working days of its receipt.
If the regional and/or specialty advisor is unable to approve the post (due to conflict of interest of other circumstances), contact details of a regional advisor from a neighbouring region will be supplied by the Faculty.
Any concerns regarding the content of the job description and/or person specification should be raised with the clinical/medical director and resolved at local level, with the aim of achieving a solution that is in the best interests of the Faculty and employing authority.
Should differences of opinion persist, the regional advisor should refer the problem as a matter of urgency to the Faculty and inform the employing body. In such circumstances, the Dean of the Faculty (or nominated deputy) should respond within 10 working days and see an agreed solution.
To make the appointment process as fast as possible, it is important that regional advisors respond promptly to requests for approval and deal with any difficulties within the agreed time frame.
Once the regional advisor has given his/her approval of the job description and person specification, the employing body should contact the Faculty promptly and request a faculty assessor to sit on the AAC panel.
When agreement has been reached regarding the job description and person specification, it should not be changed, nor challenged at the AAC by any member of the committee unless an obvious error has been made and incorrect information given to candidates, or if it appears that it could lead to unlawful indirect discrimination.
If by amending the job description or person specification the content or balance of the post changes, the process should be suspended and the job description should be re-submitted to the regional advisor for further approval. If the change is significant then the post may have to be re-advertised.
The AAC can take place 12 months or more after a job description has been approved. If the consultant post has not been advertised within 12 months of the job description approval, the trust must seek approval from the regional advisor again.
Posts that require a consultant with a particular subspecialty interest should make clear that requirement in both the job description and the advertisement of the job.
Candidates applying for the post should only be shortlisted if they have been trained at an advanced level in the subspecialty.
Trusts may be vulnerable to litigation from candidates discouraged from applying if a candidate is appointed with a declared interest in a subspecialty that differs from the subspecialty of the post advertised.
The medical personnel officer of the employing authority must contact the Faculty of Dental Surgery as early as possible so to allow the faculty assessor to provide his/her trust with 8 weeks notice of participation in an AAC. This period of notice is essential to ensure that the most suitable assessor may be nominated and that they will be available to attend.
Once the Faculty has received the request together with the job description, person specification and regional advisors approval letter; the Faculty will attempt to secure an available assessor.
If the trust has provided the Faculty with less than 8 weeks notice, the trust will be provided with a list of assessors to contact themselves. It is however very likely no assessor will be available at short notice and the AAC may need to be rescheduled.
In accordance with the NHS Good Practice Guidance (2005), nominated assessors must not be employed by the recruiting trust, and should, where possible, be employed by a trust geographically distant from the recruiting trust.
The requirements for a properly constituted AAC for a consultant appointment are set out in the 1996 regulations and include a requirement that an external assessor from the relevant Royal College is appointed to the AAC. These requirements do not apply to foundation hospitals but the Faculty’s experience is that they have always worked well. The Faculty believes that it would be good practice to continue to include a Faculty nominee from the relevant specialty in consultant AACs. Most foundation hospitals do so.
In the event that there is a conflict of interest (ie the nominated faculty assessor knows the candidate or even provided a reference), the assessor should declare their knowledge or interest and be careful not to show bias. In the event of closer personal ties, the assessor should be excused from serving and an alternative assessor should be sought.
Canvassing for support of any applicant for a consultant post is prohibited.
Members of the AAC will be sent all applications received by the recruiting authority together with the job description, person specification and selection criteria shortly after the advertised closing date.
The shortlisting process must be carried out, even if there are only a small number of candidates. It is essential that the faculty assessor takes part in this.
In order to be shortlisted, a candidate must appear on the GDC’s specialist register or the date of the interview must be within six months of the candidate’s expected CCST (CCT for OMFS) date.
However, appearance on the specialist register does not necessarily mean that a candidate is suitable for shortlisting.
Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery (OMFS) is a specialty of surgery and the specialty list is kept by the GMC. The General Dental Council also keeps a list.
It is important that shortlisting does not take place until the faculty assessor has been appointed to sit on the AAC at an agreed date. It is the responsibility of the assessor to advise the chairman and/or relevant personnel department of any candidates who would not be able to be appointed by the statutory process in accordance with the current regulations and Good Practice Guidance.
If the trust insists on shortlisting a candidate who the assessor has deemed as lacking the necessary qualifications for appointment, the assessor should discuss this with the medical director of the trust and inform the Faculty.
The Faculty should be informed of any difficulties which cannot be resolved.
In order to check whether a specialist registrar is within six months of their expected CCST date, the assessor should contact the appropriate Specialist Advisory Committee (SAC) office through the Faculty.
Candidates for posts that require a particular subspecialty interest should only be shortlisted if they have been trained at an advanced level in the subspecialty.
If the faculty assessor considers that a candidate is not suitably trained for the post, they must inform the trust and the Faculty in writing.
To be shortlisted for a consultant appointment the minimum requirement is that the applicant should be on the relevant GDC specialty list. To be on a GDC specialist list (other than those placed on a list through the GDC mediated entry (grand-parenting) process) the applicant should have satisfactorily completed a Specialist Advisory Committee (SAC) recognised training programme, passed the relevant Intercollegiate Specialty Fellowship Examination (ISFE) and have been awarded a Certificate of Completion of Specialty Training (CCST).
Please see Appendix 1 for details of training periods and qualifications required for eligibility for a consultant appointment.
A specialist registrar can apply for a consultant post within six months of completing specialist training.
There are three-year training programmes for specialties which are not designed for training to be a consultant and are not recognised by the Faculty as sufficient for shortlisting of a consultant appointment. These three year training programmes are recognised by the SACs and the GDC awards a CCST. Instead of taking an ISFE, the trainees take a specialty membership examination of one of the Royal Surgical Colleges. When these specialties were established by the GDC it was expected that they would practise as specialist practitioners in the primary care sector and this has happened.
Applicants who are nationals of another European Country or elsewhere overseas can apply for consultant posts if they can show equivalence to the minimum five year specialist training in the relevant specialty.
Current holders of an NHS or honorary NHS consultant contract in the relevant specialty - even though they have not completed a recognised SAC training programme - are eligible to be shortlisted.
The function of the AAC is to decide which, if any, of the applicants is best suited for the job and to recommend a name or names to the employing authority. The process must be fair and open within current legislation on employment practice and that the candidate must be fully trained for the post.
The AAC may not recommend a candidate for appointment who has not been interviewed.
Exceptionally, candidates may be interviewed by video or audio-link when they cannot be physically present. In this case, the AAC must be satisfied as to the candidate’s identity and ensure the candidate must not be given an unfair advantage or disadvantage over other candidates interviewed in person.
Selection must be based solely on the candidate’s fitness, ie qualifications, experience and other qualities set out in the person specification for the post. The AAC panel should make notes of the interviews and reasons for accepting or rejecting candidates. Individual members of the committee can be questioned by the courts of employment tribunals the reasons why a particular candidate was accepted or rejected.
In any other context the proceedings of the committee are confidential.
If an unsuccessful candidate seeks feedback on the reasons for non-appointment, they should be advised to contact the chairman of the committee.
If an assessor becomes aware before the AAC that they are unable to attend for reasons outside their control, i.e sickness or court attendance, the Faculty should be contacted immediately.
If possible, the assessor should inform the Faculty of a deputy to undertake the role of assessor on their behalf. If a replacement is unable to be identified, the Faculty will attempt to find a replacement. If this is not possible, the AAC will have to be deferred.
In the event that an assessor is ill or prevented from attending the AAC on the day, the Faculty will seek the details of the remaining panel members with a view to identifying another member who might undertake the role of assessor on behalf of the College.
It may be possible that the regional specialty advisor could act as the faculty assessor in this instance.
If the above options are not possible, the AAC will have to be deferred.
It is important to establish at the outset whether the committee is acting as an AAC for later formal appointment by the employing authority or as an appointments committee with the power to make the appointment at the time.
If the committee is acting as an appointments committee and, in the opinion of the faculty assessor, it appears that an appointment is about to be made of a candidate who does not meet the standards expected, then the assessor can prevent the appointment only by leaving the committee before a decision is made, so rendering the committee non-quorate and invalid.
If an unsuitably trained candidate for the advertised post is called for interview the assessor should inform the chairman of their reservations prior to the interview. If the interview still proceeds, the assessor should leave the committee before a decision is reached and so prevent any appointment being made.
In cases such as these, the faculty assessor should write immediately to the Faculty, the chairman of the AAC, the chairman of the relevant trust or health authority and the chief executive of the relevant trust or health authority to explain what transpired.
If the faculty assessor considers that a candidate is not suitably trained for the post, they must inform the trust and the Faculty in writing.
The AAC report form should be completed by the assessor and returned to the College within one week.
The Dean of the Faculty should be made aware of any serious difficulties or concerns without delay.