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FAQ CL and ACF 2019



Frequently Asked Questions and Answers

Q: What is the purpose of a NIHR Academic Clinical Fellowship (ACF) post?

A: NIHR ACFs are part of the Integrated Academic Training Pathway in England, established in order to promote academic medicine and dentistry, and to provide a clear route for doctors and dentists interested in an academic career. A NIHR ACF post is intended to support medical and dental trainees at the early stages of specialty training who wish to develop an academic career alongside their clinical training. Posts have 25% protected academic time for trainees to develop their academic research skills and prepare an application for a Fellowship award at Doctoral or appropriate level.

Q: Are NIHR ACFs run-through training posts?

A: All NIHR ACF posts are run-through training posts in the specialty in which they are advertised, with the exception of Medical Education, which is not a GMC recognised specialty. For example, an NIHR ACF in neurology that recruits into ST1 Core Medical Training will run through into Neurology ST3 training in the third year of the NIHR ACF subject to satisfactory ARCP.

Q: Is a NIHR ACF a 3 year post?

A: NIHR ACF posts last for 3 years unless the trainee is successful in obtaining a Fellowship Award and leaves the programme early. The only exception is the NIHR GP ACF post, which can last for 4 years. ACF posts are also available Less Than Full Time (LTFT), which will extend the duration of the post.

Q: Is my post associated with an NTN?

A: Yes, the HEE Local Office will assign NIHR ACF trainees a national training number with the exception of General Dental Practitioners (GDPs), who do not undergo specialty training. In addition, you will be assigned the suffix of (a). A NTN(a) identifies you as a clinical academic trainee.

Q: When does an NIHR ACF post finish?

A: A NIHR ACF post will finish at the end of 3 (or 4) years, see above. Or:

  • If a trainee leaves early to undertake a Fellowship.
  • If a trainee returns to full time clinical training.
  • If a trainee moves post or takes up a new post.

Q: What happens to my NIHR ACF post if I go out of programme to complete a PhD Fellowship?

A: Your NIHR ACF post will finish and you will return to clinical training following completion of the PhD Fellowship.

Q: Can I go out-of-programme from the NIHR ACF post?

A: In general you cannot, but this is at the discretion of the HEE Local Office and the NIHR Academy, with whom the request should be discussed. 

Q: When I return to clinical training will I still have run-through?

A: You will continue in run-through training in the specialty in which the NIHR ACF post was advertised when you return to clinical training at the end of the NIHR ACF. The HEE Local Office will manage your specialty training and run-through to CCT.

Q: Can I take maternity leave during my NIHR ACF?

A: Yes. Maternity leave is governed by the terms and conditions of service associated with your NHS contract as a trainee doctor/dentist. As with any employment, you have the right to return to the NIHR ACF post on the same terms and conditions after ordinary or supplemental maternity leave.

Q: Can I change to working part-time if my circumstances change during my NIHR ACF post?

A: Yes, but this must be agreed at a local level before starting Less Than Full Time (LTFT) working. LTFT ACFs can be extended up to a maximum of 5 years (up to a maximum of 6 years for GPs), with a stipulation that the academic component remains at 25% of Full Time Equivalent. Please contact your academic and clinical leads as well as the HEE Local Office to discuss this in the first instance.

Q: Will doing a NIHR ACF mean that it takes me longer to undertake my clinical training compared to someone at the same level in the same specialty that is in full time clinical training?

A: Progression to CCT is competency based not time based, so having time protected for academic training should not affect CCT date provided the required clinical competencies are met. The NIHR ACF should not normally increase the training period so that a trainee undertaking three years of an NIHR ACF should progress clinically at the same rate as a clinical trainee undertaking three years of training. However, should additional time be required to complete CCT, trainees should consult their Postgraduate Dean or Postgraduate Dental Dean to agree a suitable date.

Q: Can my academic training time be organised into blocks rather than taking 1 day out a week from my clinical role?

A: Yes it can, but academic training time must fit in with clinical and with the academic training capacity in the local programme. Academic time can be organised in various ways including:

  • One day per week.
  • One week in four.
  • One month blocks.
  • Three month block per year.
  • Six month block in second year.
  • One nine month block.

Q: Who do I talk to about changing the time split?

A: Arrangements regarding time splits must be agreed at a local level. Please contact your academic and clinical leads as well as the HEE local office.

Q: What is the NIHR bursary for?

A: The NIHR bursary provides NIHR ACFs and Clinical Lecturers (CLs) with a source of funding to attend meetings and conferences that are relevant to academic training.

Q: How much money is available and how do I access it?

A: The NIHR provides £1,000 per financial year per trainee to your host Medical or Dental school. The Dental or Medical school is responsible for managing the bursary fund and your Medical or Dental school is therefore responsible for approving expenditure against the bursaries. Unclaimed bursary funds currently remain with the Medical or Dental school for use on activities that benefit the academic development or training of the NIHR ACF trainees. 

Q: Can I use my bursary for consumables?

A: No, the bursary cannot be used for consumables.

Q: What if I don’t have any meetings or conferences to attend this year?

A: Attending academic meetings and conferences is an important part of your NIHR ACF training and if you do not attend meetings or conferences in any particular year this does not mean you can spend the money on something else.

Q: Can I apply to the bursary fund more than once/every year?

A: Your Medical/Dental school will clarify the process for applying.

Q: What is the NIHR ACF research training programme?

A: From September 2009 each host Medical and Dental school must have in place a formal taught Research Training Programme (RTP) available to NIHR ACFs. The aim of this is to provide NIHR ACFs with generic training in research. 

Q: How do I access the NIHR ACF Research Training Programme?

A: All NIHR ACFs that came in to post after August 2009 must have access to the local Research Training Programme. Trainees that started prior to this date should ask their Medical or Dental School about local arrangements for existing trainees.

Q: Does the NIHR pay for my research expenses?

A: No, the NIHR supports bursaries and Research Training Programmes, but not research expenses, including consumables.

Q: What does the NIHR pay for?

A: The NIHR pays the NHS employer for the full basic (unbanded) salary costs of the trainee (for both clinical and academic elements), bursary for conference and travel, and the research training programme for NIHR ACFs. In addition, the NIHR provides financial support to the HEE Local Office for the management of the NIHR ACF programme. NIHR also provides support for the Academy of Medical Sciences Mentorship and Outreach Scheme which is available to NIHR ACFs.

Q: Do the NIHR pay banding?

A: No, this should be negotiated locally with the Trust.

Q: What is the annual NIHR Academy Members Conference?

A: NIHR organises an annual conference for all NIHR Academy Members including NIHR ACFs in post. This conference is an opportunity to learn more about the NIHR, network with fellow Academy Members from all disciplines and present your own research.

Q: Who should my employment contract be with?

A: NIHR ACFs are usually employed by a NHS Trust.

Q: Should I have an honorary contract with the University?

A: In principle, yes. If this is not possible the university must ensure you have access to the university facilities e.g. libraries, IT support and training, and support for research governance.

Q: Who should I speak to about obtaining an honorary academic contract?

A: Ideally it should be part of the contract package given to you at the start of the fellowship. If it is not you should approach your academic supervisor in the first instance.

Q: Who do I speak to if I am having difficulty managing my research and clinical commitments?

A: In the first instance you should address your concerns to your local Academic and Clinical Leads who are responsible for managing the balance of your academic and clinical training needs or requirements. 

Q: What if I continue to have concerns?

A: You should raise your concerns with the HEE Local Office.

Q: What is the role of the NIHR Academy in managing the NIHR ACF programme?

A: The NIHR Academy responsible for:

  • Working with HEE Local Office, Medical and Dental Schools and NHS partnerships to deliver the NIHR ACF programme across England.
  • Producing national guidance for recruitment, monitoring and development of the programme.
  • Supporting trainees through its conference and other events.

The NIHR Academy is not responsible for:

  • Employment contracts.
  • Local negotiations or decisions relating to clinical commitments or how your time is organised.

However, we are always happy to provide you with information and direct you to the most appropriate local contact.

Q: Can I apply for an Inter-Deanery Transfer (IDT) as a NIHR ACF?

A: Yes. You may apply for an IDT as set out in the Gold Guide/Dental Gold Guide. For information about how to transfer the academic component of your training please contact the NIHR Academy.

Q: What happens next?

A: Ideally, trainees will have secured a doctoral research fellowship. If not, trainees will return to the clinical training pathway.

Q: Is there a guarantee of a NIHR Clinical Lecturership (CL) post?

A: There is no guarantee of a NIHR CL. Trainees will need to apply in open national competition. 

Q: How can I contact the NIHR Academy?

A: Email:

Telephone: 0113 532 8397