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ACF Guidance for Applicants (August 2017)

To view the guide, please expand the relevant chapters. A downloadable copy of this guidance is available in PDF format from the Resource Bank. Applicants are also strongly advised to read the 2017 NHS Medical Specialty Recruitment Applicant Handbook.

The General Practice National Recruitment Office (GPNRO) co-ordinates the nationally agreed and quality assured process for recruitment to GP Specialty Training Programmes. There are three types of General Practice Training Programmes that are recruited to:

  1. Specialty Training (ST1)
  2. Academic Clinical Fellowship (ACF)
  3. Global Health Fellowship (GHF)

This guidance deals particularly with the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) funded and locally funded Academic Clinical Fellowship (ACF) posts. For information on the other recruitment episodes please see the relevant guide available off GPNRO website.

Recruitment to GP ACF Training will take place twice a year, for August 2017 starts. Round 1 and Round 1 Re-advert cover August 2017 commencement. This guide relates to posts commencing in August 2017.

All submitted applications for GP ACF will be assessed using a standard, national and consistent process outlined below in parallel with the ST1 clinical recruitment and selection process. Both are established and well-researched selection processes using modern methodologies that we are confident are fair, robust and fit for purpose. The competency based selection process allows applicants to demonstrate their abilities and suitability for GP training - applications are assessed by the demonstration of competences as outlined in the GP ST1 Person Specification.

You should also refer to the: NIHR Recruitment Information Pack (for general information about NIHR recruitment and posts); Oriel Applicant User Guide (for technical help with the on-line application form) and the 2017 Medical Specialty Recruitment Applicant Handbook (for general information about the national recruitment processes administered by HEE).

NIHR Academic Clinical Fellowships are Specialty Training posts that incorporate academic training. NIHR Academic Clinical Fellows (ACFs) spend 75% of their time undertaking specialist clinical training and 25% undertaking research or educationalist training.

NIHR ACF posts are only available to medically qualified candidates and are aimed at those who, at the early stages of their Specialty Training, show outstanding potential for a career in academic medicine. GP ACF is a 4 year training programme. During this time, alongside clinical training, ACFs will be able to develop their academic skills and be supported in preparing an application for a Research Training Fellowship (to undertake a higher research degree) or an application for a place on an educational programme (leading to a higher degree). Success in these applications is defined as the end point of an ACF.

NIHR does not see immediate success of obtaining a PhD (or post-doctoral) fellowship as the only successful endpoint to an NIHR ACF. Trainees may need to continue in clinical training before applying for, or taking up such a training fellowship, as befits their personal situation at that time. The later uptake of a Fellowship is still measured as a successful outcome.

There are also some HEE Local Offices which have academic posts that are funded locally and not by NIHR. The composition of these posts is very similar to what is described above but there will be some subtle differences. These posts will be advertised alongside the NIHR funded posts in the same vacancy.

To apply for an ACF post you are required to submit separate applications for the ACF vacancy, as well as the ST1 vacancy. All applications must be made via the on-line Oriel system. Late applications will NOT be considered. The dates and deadlines relating to current recruitment activity are available on GPNRO website.

Once your application has been submitted you are unable to make any changes, apart from to update your own contact and referee details so please ensure that you do not submit unless it is complete.

Please be aware that the Oriel system does not support internet browsers that have reached the end of their product support lifecycle.

Important: If an applicant does not currently hold an NTN in GP, to qualify for an Academic Clinical Fellowship post you must also apply for GP ST1 Specialty Training in the same round and be considered appointable for the August 2017 intake. This means you will go through both the standard GP ST1 recruitment process and ACF recruitment process if you are to successfully gain an ACF post. If at any point an applicant is unsuccessful in the standard GP ST1 recruitment process then they will automatically be deemed unsuccessful in the ACF vacancy, irrespective of ACF assessment outcomes.

If you do not submit an application to ST1 via the National Recruitment process we will be unable to proceed with your application for an Academic Clinical Fellowship.

If you currently hold an NTN in General Practice you are not required to clinically benchmark and your application will be processed as described in this guide.

Contact regarding your ACF application will be via direct messaging through Oriel. GP administrators should also send an email as a secondary form of communication. However, as emails are external to the Oriel system, delivery cannot be guaranteed and therefore this method of communication should not be relied upon.

You should also make sure that you are using an email account that you can access at any time and will not be blocked by your employer’s IT security system. If you are uncertain about this, you should check with your IT department at work.

Applicants are allowed to submit ONE application for an ACF training programme. In 2017, at the time of application, you will be asked to indicate your preference of HEE Local Office. You will only be allowed to rank one region so please ensure you are comfortable with your choice. ACF Training Programmes are available at ST1 entry level only and are four years in duration.

Applicants are also advised to read the HEE Local Office profile pages and access individual HEE Local Office websites for more information about the opportunities available. We suggest that you research not only the types of programmes offered at each HEE Local Office but also the geographical areas covered by each HEE Local Office, the main Trusts in each of those areas, transport links to home and so on.

You are not required to indicate your preferred geographies within the HEE Local Office at the application stage. You will be able to do this once you have been allocated to a HEE Local Office.

From 2017, England has introduced formalised processes to assist applicants to train in desired locations of the country.


6.1 Special Circumstances

To ensure that applicants with special circumstances and a requirement to train in a particular location are treated in a fair and consistent way, those applicants wishing to be considered for special circumstances pre allocation should ensure that they state this on their application form. If this applies to you, you will need to submit supporting evidence directly to GPNRO, by email, as soon as your application has been submitted electronically. Requests for consideration of special circumstances submitted in any other way will not be accepted.

It is important that you review the relevant section in the 2017 Medical Specialty Recruitment Applicant Handbook (pages 20-21) for details on the eligibility criteria and administrative process.


6.2 Facilitated Placements

This process is not available for academic training posts.


6.3 Deferment of Start Date

Deferments to start date will only be considered for reasons stated in the Gold Guide (i.e. for statutory grounds such as maternity leave or ill health).

Deferment for any other reason will not be permitted.

If you wish to request a deferment to your start date, you must declare this in your application form and contact your recruiting HEE Local Office or Deanery as soon as possible.


6.4 Adjustments under the Equality Act 2010

All HEE Local Offices and Deaneries are aware of the requirements of the Equality Act 2010 and in this regard will make reasonable adjustments to accommodate applicants at the assessment and selection centres provided these are made known in advance. Applicants who require adjustments (e.g. wheelchair access, extra time, nursing mothers) must inform their first preference HEE Local Office or Deanery of any special requirements, evidenced by supporting documentation, at the earliest possible opportunity and by no later than the application closing date. Adjustments cannot be guaranteed if contact is made after the specified deadline and no adjustments can be made on the day of the assessment.

In some instances, in order to satisfy requests for adjustments, it may be necessary to schedule an Assessment/Selection Centre place at a specific time or a specific location.

Applicants without right of residence will be able to apply in all rounds of GP recruitment. Applicants without right of residence will not be rejected solely due to their immigration status and, should they be successful, will be considered for an offer in this round. In order for these applicants to be appointed, the Resident Labour Market Test (RLMT) will need to be satisfied.

It is strongly suggested that you read the 2017 Medical Specialty Recruitment Applicant Handbook, in order to familiarise yourself with the immigration information contained within.


7.1 Tier 4 Visa Applicants

Applicants with a Tier 4 visa, currently in a UK Foundation Programme who have graduated from a UK Medical school without a break between graduation and commencement of Foundation Programme will be eligible for consideration and will not be required to satisfy the Resident Labour Market Test.

All applicants will need to provide evidence of their English language skills at any interview attended in line with the acceptable evidence detailed in the GP ST1 Person Specification.


8.1 Evidence of Communication Skills for Medical Performers’ Lists

Eligibility for entry onto a UK Medical Performers’ List is an essential criterion and therefore, applicants must also ensure their evidence of communication skills complies with the Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) or Guidance issued by the relevant Primary Care Organisations (PCOs) responsible for maintaining a medical performers’ list in each of the four countries.

PCOs are NHS England in England, Health and Social Services Boards in Northern Ireland, Local Health Boards in Wales, and primary care divisions within area health boards in Scotland.

All applicants to ST1 posts are required to provide evidence of achievement of Foundation Competence within the 3 years prior to the intended commencement date for the advertised post(s). Foundation competency can be demonstrated in any of the following ways:

  • Currently on a Foundation Programme - Applicants currently undertaking a recognised foundation programme in the UK which is due to finish in August 2017, will need to confirm the name of their Foundation School but do not need to submit any other evidence at the point of application. Any offer of a training programme will be conditional upon successful completion of the Foundation Programme and being awarded a Foundation Programme Certificate of Completion (FPCC) before August 2017. Those applying who will require a delayed start date due to illness or maternity, will be permitted to apply and defer in order to allow them to complete their Foundation Programme.

  • Already completed a Foundation Programme - Applicants who have successfully completed the UK Foundation Programme no earlier than 1 January 2014 are required to upload their FACD 5.2 (FPCCs will be issued to Foundation doctors on completion of training from 2017) to their application form, at the time of application submission.

  • Currently on a Specialty Training Programme - Applicants currently in active clinical or clinical and academic practice in a UK educationally approved training post (CT/ST/LAT or equivalent), holding either a National Training Number (NTN) or Deanery Reference Number (DRN) will be considered as having had their foundation competences assessed on entry to their current post and do not need to demonstrate these again, regardless of when foundation competences were signed off.

  • Anybody who is not covered by the above - Applicants who do not fall into any of the above categories will be required to submit a 2017 Alternative Certificate of Foundation Competence signed by a consultant who has supervised them for at least 3 months (whole time equivalent and continuous period) since 1st August 2014. Forms from previous recruitment years will not be accepted.

    In addition, applicants are also required to have 12 months experience after achieving full registration with the GMC, or equivalent medical regulatory body, by the start date for the post they are applying for.


You may submit more than one Alternative Certificate from different posts in order to show evidence of achievement of all outcomes but all certificates must relate to posts undertaken for at least 3 continuous months (whole time equivalent) since 1st August 2014. You should ideally attach scanned copies of the certificate(s) to your application form, however if this is not possible you will have until Friday 28th April 2017 to submit the completed Alternative Certificate.

Please note:

  • This extended period for the submission of the 2017 Alternative Certificate is applicable to GP/ACF applicants only.
  • If you are required to satisfy the Resident Labour Market Test you will have until Friday 3rd March 2017 to submit a completed Alternative Certificate

Applicants who fail to provide a 2017 Alternative Certificate at the time of application will not be longlisted out but any subsequent GP offer received will be conditional upon the original document/s being seen by the above date. If you are not able to provide a 2017 Alternative Certificate at the time of submitting your application then you will need to ensure you answer ‘No’ to the question regarding achievement of foundation competences. The system will then ask you to justify why you feel you are exempt. You will be required to provide information justifying why you believe you will have it by the date specified above. It is strongly suggested you complete your application form as early on as possible in the application window if this applies to you.

If you answer yes to any of the Fitness to Practise questions on the application form, you will be required to send information about this declaration to your first preference HEE Local Office or Deanery by the application closing date. Appropriate contact details for Fitness to Practise Declarations can be found in Annex C of the 2017 Medical Specialty Recruitment Applicant Handbook.

Failure to provide this evidence by the application closing date will result in your application not being processed any further in the recruitment round.

Many core competences are common across some, but not all, specialty curricula. When moving from one approved training programme to another, competences gained in core, specialty or general practice training should not have to be repeated if already achieved.

The Academy of Medical Royal Colleges has developed the Accreditation of Transferable Competences Framework (ATCF) to assist trainee doctors in transferring competences achieved in one core, specialty or general practice training programme, where appropriate and valid, to another training programme.

Trainees who decide to change career path could transfer competences achieved in another training programme and reduce the length of their new training programme.

The ATCF applies only to those moving between periods of GMC approved training and is aimed at the early years of training. The time to be recognised within the ATCF will need to be reviewed at the trainee’s first Annual Review of Competence Progression (ARCP), if appointed.

Applicants wishing to be considered for accreditation of transferable competences should indicate this on their application form.

Further information on the ATCF is available from COGPED website.

Specialty training posts and programmes are not normally available to any doctor who has previously relinquished or been released or removed from that training post/programme. However:


12.1 Support for Reapplication to Specialty

If you have previously resigned or been removed from a GP training programme, you will need to provide full details of the resignation/release/removal. This must be provided on the Support for Reapplication to a Specialty Training Programme form and approved by both the Head of School/Training Programme Director and Postgraduate Dean in the HEE Local Office or Deanery where training was previously undertaken. This evidence will need to be uploaded to your Oriel account via the Document Upload dashboard as Supporting evidence and attached to your application at the point of application.

Any applications from excluded trainees without submitted evidence will not progress any further in the recruitment process.


12.2 Support for Reapplication to Specialty Training in a Different Region

Trainees currently working in General Practice, applying to continue their training in another HEE Local Office or Deanery, without a break in service, will need to provide information relating to this. You must gain support from your current HEE Local Office or Deanery by completing the Support for Reapplication of Specialty Training in a Different Region form. This evidence will need to be uploaded to your Oriel account via the Document Upload dashboard as Supporting evidence and attached to your application at the point of application.

Any applications without submitted evidence will not progress any further in the recruitment process.

As you progress through your application it may become apparent that you will be required to upload some form of documentation to allow GPNRO to assess your eligibility.

If you are required to do this, in order to help GPNRO you are required to:

  • Ensure that the document is uploaded as a whole and not in separate pages
  • Ensure that the document is appropriately labelled to allow GPNRO to understand what it is they will be opening
  • Ensure that the document is uploaded in to the correct document section

GPNRO reserve the right to request re-submission of documentation if the above rules are not followed.

All applications will be assessed against the essential criteria outlined in the national NIHR and GP ST1 Person Specification.

Important: Any applicants that do not currently hold an NTN will also need to submit a standard clinical application to GP ST1. If this applies you will also need to meet the GP ST1 Person Specification.

All eligible applicants (i.e. those who have been assessed as demonstrating evidence of eligibility as outlined above) will be shortlisted against a nationally agreed framework that is designed to review all the essential competences needed to undertake an ACF post. The information provided throughout your whole application form (and in particular the white box/free text questions) is what will be used to conduct shortlisting.

The following areas are assessed during shortlisting:

  • Clinical experience
  • Academic experience
  • Commitment to a clinical academic career
  • Language Skills; Reasoned/Analytical Approach
  • BSc or BA OR MSC or MRes OR PhD or MD in relevant subject
  • Undergraduate or postgraduate prizes
  • Honours/distinctions (in final MB)
  • Teaching experience
  • Extra-curricular activities
  • Scientific publications
  • Scientific presentations at National/International Level
  • Key academic achievements

All applicants will then be placed in a regionally ranked list based on their shortlisting score and invited to interview based on the HEE Local Offices interview capacity for their ACF selection centre.

On completion of the shortlisting process, applicants that have met the minimum required standard will be considered for Academic Interview in their allocated region.

Applicants will only be invited to attend one Academic Interview (i.e. where their first preference is) and will only be considered for appointment in that specific HEE Local Office.

Applicants will be notified if they are invited to Academic Interview via Oriel and will be able to book their interview place using the on-line Oriel system. It is important to note that interview slots are booked on a first come first served basis.

If you are invited to attend an interview you will be asked to make more detailed programme and geographical preferences (referred to as sub-preferences). These sub-preferences will need to be made on the Oriel System and your stated sub-preferences will be used when offers are made. Please be aware that sub-preferences expressed in any other way will not be taken into consideration.

If you place any of the sub-preference options in the not wanted box, you will never receive an offer for these rotations/programmes, even if this means that you are bypassed in the offers process and a lower ranked applicant is made an offer instead of you. GPNRO therefore advise that you should only move sub preferences to the not wanted box if you are certain that you would not want to receive an offer from them.

If you fail to express your sub preferences online and you are made an offer, you should expect that the offer made will be for one of the least popular rotations in the allocated HEE Local Office. You will also not be eligible for an upgrade as there will be no higher preference rotation that you could be upgraded into.

Information regarding these further preferences will be published on individual HEE Local Office web sites. GPNRO does not have any involvement in this process. Any queries relating to this should be sent to the appointing HEE Local Office.

On the day of the Academic Interview, please ensure that you allow yourself plenty of time to get to the venue to allow for registration and evaluation of essential entry criteria, e.g. documented proof of identity, immigration status, confirmation of award of medical degree, foundation competences etc.

If you are booked to attend an Academic Interview and are unable to attend due to unforeseen circumstances or an emergency, you must contact the organising HEE Local Office directly to ascertain whether alternative arrangements can be made. Alternative arrangements cannot be guaranteed.

Applicants should note that children are not permitted at the interview venue.

Important: On arrival at Interview if you find you have a conflict of interest with a panel member, for example you are already familiar with them and you are not comfortable in being interviewed by them; it is your responsibility to inform a member of the recruitment team at your earliest opportunity so that alternative arrangements can be made, such as being interviewed by a neutral panel member.


18.1 Dress Code

Conventionally in the UK, formal professional practice between doctors and patients is appropriately marked by a certain formality of dress. The same dress code will apply for selection centre as it does for day to day clinical practice/contact with patients; this means that forms of dress should not constrain the applicants’ ability to demonstrate recognised skills. All doctors should ensure their appearance does not impede their professional roles and responsibilities; including communication with patients, relatives, carers and other staff. Inappropriately revealing styles such as low-cut necklines and mini-skirts, dangling jewellery/accessories should be avoided. Equally, forms of dress that cover the face will normally be deemed inappropriate in such consultations.


18.2 Academic Interview Formate

At the Academic Interview each applicant will have a number of opportunities to demonstrate some of the competences outlined in the GP ST1 Person Specification. Each of these competences will be observed and assessed by trained assessors.

The Academic Interview will use a traditional format where by applicants will only go to one station and be interviewed/assessed by one panel.

The competences that are assessed at Interview are:

  • Knowledge and Achievements
  • Scientific Publications and Presentations
  • Communication Skills

Please refer to the NIHR and GP ST1 Person Specifications for more information about these.

Further details about the format of the day (i.e. how each of the above competences are assessed, for example by a presentation exercise) will be provided to you by the HEE Local Office when they invite you to interview.

If you believe you should have received this information and have not then please contact the HEE Local Office who are administering the interviews. GPNRO will not hold this information.

You are required to give details of three referees on Oriel; one must be an Academic reference and the other two your last Clinical or Educational supervisors from your current post, your previous post and the post before that. You will be able to amend referee details on Oriel up until the point the reference has been submitted.

Referees are required to submit references electronically, using an on-line referee portal in Oriel, once offers have been released. You will be advised, via your Oriel portal, when your referee has submitted their reference.

All offers made will be on the condition of the HEE Local Office receiving three satisfactory references. Obtaining references is an applicant’s responsibility. The HEE Local Office will NOT chase your referees.

In rare cases there may be a need for your reference to be provided on paper. We will instruct you if this is necessary. You can download a Structured National Reference Form from the Oriel Resource Bank.

All offers will be made via Oriel by GPNRO. Offers received in any other way will be deemed invalid. If you are made an offer, you will need to respond to this on Oriel.

Applicants will be ranked in a HEE Local Office specific list based on their performance throughout the selection process (i.e. you will only be competing against other applicants who applied to the same region as you).

Initial offers will be released by close of business on the first offer date published for the current round (see the GPNRO website). Please do not contact GPNRO about offers prior to this date, as it could delay the release.

You will be given 48 hours (exclusive of weekends) to respond to an offer and have the option to accept, decline or hold. Only one offer can be held at any one time, across all specialty applications in a round (i.e. you cannot hold an ST1 and ACF offer at the same time). If you fail to respond to an offer within the 48 hour window you will be deemed to have declined the offer.

If you are holding an offer and try to hold another, the original held post will be automatically declined by the system.

Once you have accepted a post, you will not receive any further offers from any other specialty in this round (i.e. it will withdraw you from all other applications you have in the recruitment round).

Offers that are declined will be reoffered in rank order to other applicants.

If you choose to hold an offer, you can keep this offer held up until the hold deadline published for the current round (see the GPNRO website). Before this deadline, you will be required to go back into Oriel and make a final decision on the offer. Any offers still held when the deadline is reached will be deemed to have been declined and the system will automatically change your status to show that you have declined the post.

After the hold deadline has passed, any offers made will only have the option of accept or decline.

Please note: Applicants whose immigration status would require an employer to obtain a Certificate of Sponsorship can only be made an offer if there are no remaining suitable UK/EEA applicants.

There is no upgrading of offers in ACF recruitment. Therefore, if you are successful in receiving an offer this is the only one you will ever receive.

There is no clearing for ACF recruitment. Therefore, if you do not receive an offer in this round of recruitment it will be for one of two reasons:

  1. All of your ACF Training Programme preferences being accepted before your rank is reached (this could happen even if you are considered appointable in the process).
  2. You were unsuccessful at a certain part of the recruitment process (you will be notified if this is the case).

For any applicants that fall into one of these two categories GPNRO would like all applicants to consider applying for other ACF (and alternative General Practice jobs) in subsequent rounds of recruitment. Potential applicants are advised to regularly check GPNRO website for information about upcoming opportunities.

Applicants will be given feedback throughout the recruitment process and will not need to make a formal request to receive it.

Applicants that are rejected at the longlisting stage will be advised of the reason why their application was rejected; Applicants that are rejected following shortlisting will be advised of their total scores, the maximum scores available and the scores needed to be invited to interview; Interview feedback will be released up to seven days after the initial offer date.

Applicants who wish to request feedback above and beyond the standard feedback that is provided (i.e. their actual score sheets) can do so by making a request to their interviewing region, not GPNRO. Please ensure you contact the HEE Local Office where you were interviewed directly and explain in the email that you wish to receive anonymised score sheets.

GPNRO expect the score sheets to be released to applicants within 20 working days however applicants must understand that, in busy periods, this could take longer to receive.

There is no further feedback that can be provided after score sheets have been requested.

Any vacancies that are left unfilled at the end of this process will be re-advertised.

The offer and allocation of a Training Programme referred to above is NOT an offer of employment. An employment contract detailing the terms and conditions of employment will be issued by the responsible employing organisation and is made subject to satisfactory pre-employment checks. Your offer of employment will include the name of your employer, the start date and length of the period of employment, the location, the hours, the minimum rate of remuneration and the notice period applicable.

Information regarding pay, hours, sick pay and annual leave entitlements, notice period, study leave, pension scheme etc. are set out in the national terms and conditions available from NHS Employers. A framework for a written contract of employment for GP specialty registrars is also available from the BMA. Individual HEE Local Office or Deanery websites may also provide additional local information and links to individual employer websites.

The employing organisation carry out a number of pre-employment checks before an offer of employment can be confirmed. These will include verification of identity, registration and qualifications, right to work (immigration), employment history and employment reference checks (these are different from the clinical reference checks that the HEE Local Office or Deanery needs), a Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) check and an occupational health check. Some of these (verification of identify, registration and qualifications and right to work for example) may also be undertaken by the HEE Local Office or Deanery during the recruitment process.

Any claims for expenses incurred in travelling to an Academic Interview should be made to the region that interviewed you, not the GPNRO.

Please contact the organising HEE Local Office for further guidance on their expenses policy.