NHS Consultant Interviews: The AAC Panel

An AAC interview can be incredibly nerve wracking, but it is an essential part of the process to become an NHS consultant. This blog breaks down the role and function of the AAC panel, as well as some tips for the interview. Read on to find out more!

What is an AAC Panel?

An Advisory Appointments Committee (AAC) is a legally constituted interview panel, established by an employing body, (for example, an NHS trust), when appointing consultants.

For NHS Trusts and Health Boards, holding an AAC panel before appointing a consultant is a legal requirement. For Foundation Trusts, it is part of agreed best practice – so it is a common occurrence among NHS organisations.

Who is on the AAC Panel?

The panel is generally made up of the following:

  • A ‘lay member’ (normally the chairman of the employing body, or another non-executive director)
  • A Royal College representative
  • The Chief Executive of the employing body
  • The Medical Director of the employing body
  • A consultant, usually from the relevant specialty, from the employing body
  • A university representative, if the post has a strong focus on research.

No recruitment can take place without all of these members in place – though some organisations may invite additional members to sit on the panel.

What is the role of the panel?

The AAC’s role is to recommend a specific candidate for appointment – though the employing body has the final say in the appointment. The panel will decide this in one of two ways – either by a voting scheme, or a marking scheme.

Some Trusts will allow each panel member one vote, with the candidate who receives the most votes being given the recommendation. In some cases, members of a panel may be given two votes.

Other panels will use a marking scheme to help them decide, whereby each candidate is marked by a member of the panel on certain questions. The total marks are counted, and the candidate with the most marks is recommended.

Though the employing body can legally appoint a different candidate to the AAC recommendation, it is unlikely – so impressing in the AAC interview is crucial.

The panel is involved in the interview process before the formal interview, with each member of the panel contributing to the shortlisting process.

Structure of the interview

The recruitment process for an NHS consultant post can be intensive and involves several stages beyond the usual CV submission and interview. Depending on your specialty and the organisation you apply to, your appointment process may include some of the following activities:

  • Panel interview
  • Psychometric testing
  • Group discussion and/or meeting facilitation
  • Presentation
  • Group exercises
  • In tray/prioritisation exercises
  • Clinical/practical skills station
  • Informal gathering,

The panel interview typically lasts around 45 minutes and will consist of 12-15 questions asked by different panel members. Usually, the Royal College representative will begin the interview by asking background questions, and questions about training and clinical skills.

The consultants and Clinical Directors tend to ask questions around experience relevant to the post and safety record. The Medical Director and Chief Executive generally ask questions about clinical governance, safety, interdisciplinary relationships and interactions, patient experience and service improvement.

The Chairperson usually asks more general questions, about your motivation, interpersonal skills, strengths and weaknesses and why you want to work for the particular trust. University representatives may ask questions about your teaching and research experience, and any issues you had relating to these.

Interview top tips

  1. AAC panel interviews generally last around 45 minutes, with each member of the panel asking around 2 questions – for an average of around 12-16 questions. This gives you 2-3 minutes to answer each question – though this includes the time taken to ask the question. Try and keep your answers to around 1.5 – 2 minutes per question.
  2. Develop each point with examples – make sure you are specific about your experiences, how they have impacted your practice, and your key takeaways.
  3. Keep answers focused on your specialty – avoid generic answers about ‘medicine’.
  4. Focus answers around the post advertised – highlight relevant experience and training.

The final decision to appoint will be based on the interview, as well as references and any other activities undertaken in the appointment process.

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