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Wider use of physician associates will increase inequality, say UK doctors

Doctors are warning the UK medical regulator that wider use of physician associates in the NHS may risk patient safety and lead to greater inequalities in care in deprived areas that struggle to recruit GPs.

The government’s plan to recruit 10,000 physician associates – healthcare professionals supervised by doctors – has angered many clinicians who consider the roles ill-defined and a potential threat to patient safety.

The General Medical Council (GMC) is to regulate physician and anaesthesia associates, who also work under doctors’ supervision, from December.

The doctors’ union, the British Medical Association, last week announced it was seeking a judicial review of the GMC over the “dangerous blurring of lines” between doctors and medical associate professions. It argues physician and anaesthesia associates need regulating, but not by the GMC.

Other professional membership organisations want clarification of associates’ roles. The Royal College of General Practitioners (RCGP) told the GMC that regulation is a “significant step forward”, but the scope of practice needs to be urgently developed.

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The Guardian, 30 June 2024


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