Frequently Asked Questions for NIHR ACFs

This section will provide current NIHR ACF trainees with information that may be of use during their post.

Upcoming Events

Details of events will be published here as they arise.

Frequently Asked Questions

(also available as a download opposite)


Out of Programme

Maternity Leave

Part-time Working

Interdeanery Transfers

Academic and Clinical Time Splits



NIHR ACF Research Training Programme

The Role of NIHR TCC

Employment Contract

Concerns About Research and Clinical Commitments

Completion of Clinical Training

After Completion of the NIHR ACF

Contact and Other Information

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.
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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.
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NIHR ACF posts last for 3 years unless the trainee is successful in obtaining a Fellowship Award and leaves the programme early.  The only exceptions are NIHR GP ACF and NIHR GDP ACF posts which can last for 4 years, or if the NIHR ACF post is part-time.
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Yes, the LETB will assign NIHR ACF trainees a national training number with the exception of GDPs who do not undergo specialty training.  In addition, you will be assigned the suffix of (a).  A NTN(a) identifies you as an academic clinical trainee.
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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.
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Out of Programme
In general you cannot, but this is at the discretion of the LETB and NIHR TCC with whom the request should be discussed. 
Out of Programme for PhD Fellowship
Your NIHR ACF post will finish and you will return to clinical training following completion of the PhD Fellowship.
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Return to clinical training
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 LETB will manage your specialty training and run through to CCT.
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Maternity Leave
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.
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Yes, but this must be agreed at a local level before starting part-time working. Part-time Academic Clinical Fellowships can be extended up to a maximum of 5 years (up to a maximum of 6 years for GPs and GDPs), 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 Local Education Training Board (LETB).
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Inter-Deanery Transfer
Yes.  You may apply for an inter-deanery transfer as set out in the Gold Guide/Dental Gold Guide. For information about how to transfer the academic component of your training please contact NIHR TCC.
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Academic-Clinical split
Yes it can, but academic training time must fit in with clinical rotas 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.
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Who to talk to about time split
Arrangements regarding time splits must be agreed at a local level. Please contact your academic and clinical leads as well as the Local Education Training Board (LETB).
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Research expenses
No, the NIHR supports bursaries and Research Training Programmes, but not research expenses, including consumables
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What does NIHR pay for
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 LETB for the management of the NIHR ACF programme.
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Pay banding
No, this should be negotiated locally with the Trust.
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NIHR Bursary
The NIHR bursary provides NIHR ACF and Clinical Lecturer trainees with a source of funding to attend meetings and conferences that are relevant to academic training
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Bursary amount and access
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.
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No, the bursary cannot be used for consumables.
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Meetings and conferences
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.
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Bursary applications
Your Medical/Dental school will clarify the process for applying.
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NIHR research training programme
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. 
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Access to NIHR research training programme
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.
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Role of NIHR TCC
The NIHR TCC is responsible for:
  • Working with LETB, 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 TCC 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.

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NIHR TCC trainees' conference
NIHR organises an annual conference for all NIHR trainees including NIHR ACFs in post.  This conference is an opportunity to learn more about the NIHR, network with fellow trainees from all disciplines and present your own research.
Employment contract
NIHR ACFs are usually employed by a NHS Trust.
Honorary contract
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.
Contact for honorary contract
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.
Concerns about clinical and academic commitments
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.
Futher concerns
You should raise your concerns with the Local Education Training Board (LETB)
Completion of clinical training
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.
What happens next
Ideally, trainees will have secured a doctoral research fellowship. If not, trainees will return to the clinical training pathway
Clinical Lecturer post
There is no guarantee of a clinical lecturer post. Trainees will need to apply in open national competition. 
Contacting NIHR TCC
By email to: or telephone: 0113 346 6260