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applying for the Specialised foundation programme (sFP)

by Dr Imogen Welding

The SFP is an opportunity for Foundation Doctors to gain experience in teaching, research, or leadership and management by spending one of their four-month placements over the course of their first two years in one of these fields. It’s a great chance to try something a little bit different or pursue a topic that interests you, but does involve a little more time and effort.


As of 2021/22, the single Foundation Programme Oriel application form will be used for both the regular FP and SFP, so you do not need to fill in a separate application form to apply for the SFP. All applicants have the opportunity to apply to a maximum of two Academic Units of Application (AUoAs). When you opt to apply for the SFP, the application form asks for some extra information in the Evidence and Supporting sections.

In the evidence section, you can enter details of any further educational achievements up to a maximum of 32(!). The extra achievements here include things like further publications, presentations and prizes (full details available on specific deanery/AUoA websites). You don’t have to upload evidence for these achievements, but if you’re called for interview they will ask for evidence at this stage. 

The supporting section is where you find the white space questions (WSQ). These are up to six competency-based questions for which you have to supply a short answer. Some deaneries do not use WSQs as part fo their application system (e.g. London and Oxford in the 2021/22 application cycle). If both your chosen SFP deaneries do not require you to fill in WSQ, then you may leave this part of the application blank. The questions are usually things like ‘describe a time when you displayed leadership skills’ or ‘give an example of your teaching experience’. It’s basically an opportunity for you to brag about how great you are, and is worth spending some time over. Competency questions are common across many types of job offer both within and outside of medicine, and there is a vast array of advice online as to how best to tackle them, so I won’t address them in detail here.

After the submission deadline, applications are in the hands of the individual AUoA which will undertake its own long listing and short listing process. Short-listed candidates will be invited to interview, then the candidate’s interview score is added to their decile score to give the total SFP score. Depending on the AUoA, the SJT score may play no part in this process (however, offers can be withdrawn if the SJT score is ‘exceptionally low’). You will find each AUoA's applicant guide and short listing criteria on their respective websites.

Interviews vary between the different units, but there are common themes that seem to crop up. If you want to get some practice and swipe some tips, you can usually find local interview preparation courses run by successful applicants. 

SFP programmes are then allocated based on candidate scores in the same way as the FP allocation process. The results of this process will be available on your Oriel account in January (before FP allocations are released). You must accept or reject the offer within 48 hours, so don’t forget to check! After this window has closed, those on the reserve list may be made an offer. Unsuccessful SFP applicants will join the FP application stream. 

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Page last updated: September 2021

Dr Imogen Welding

Dr Imogen Welding is a Foundation Year 2 Doctor, currently working in Liaison Psychiatry at North Middlesex University Hospital, London. She studied Medicine at the University of Oxford for six years, during which she chose special modules in Infection and Immunity, and participated in research in the field of Neuroimmunology.

She applied to the North Central London Deanery and spent her FY1 year at University College London Hospital, working in Gastroenterology, Trauma and Orthopaedics, and Acute Medicine.

Imogen’s future plans currently include taking an ‘F3’ year out of training to spend time working in Emergency Departments and travelling. After this, she intends to start Core Medical Training, and is currently interested in pursuing careers in Rheumatology or Haematology.

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