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I thought I was seeing a GP – but I was misdiagnosed by a physician associate

'PAs' -  who have just two years training - are being used to treat NHS patients, but doctors are concerned about patient safety, reports Sarah Graham.

PAs, or physician associates, are a relatively new type of health professional, first introduced in the UK in 2003 and increasingly used across the NHS to provide care to patients, including at GP surgeries. They undergo two years of postgraduate training (compared with the ten years of medical training needed to become a GP).

There are now more than 3,000 PAs working in the NHS. The Government has said it wants to increase the number to 10,000 by 2037, but the scheme has become controversial following a series of reports of patients being misdiagnosed, some with fatal consequences.

As far as Dave Hay knew, he was seeing a GP. It was 2022 and he’d started having bouts of dizziness, brain fog and fatigue. “It was having an impact on my work and everyday life, so I called my local surgery to make an appointment. I saw someone who wasn’t my usual doctor, but she introduced herself as Dr Smith,” says Hay, 57, a scientist from Yorkshire. “I explained my symptoms. She didn’t do any kind of examination – didn’t check my ears or my vision – and just said, ‘look, I don’t think there’s anything seriously wrong with you, but come back if your symptoms get worse’,” he says.

Two weeks later Dave, now 57, a scientist from Yorkshire, felt worse. 

It was only later, during a chance conversation with the practice nurse, that Dave learned he hadn’t been seeing a GP at all. “I was at a routine appointment and explained what had happened,” Dave says. “The nurse asked who I’d seen and said, ‘that’s not a doctor, that’s a PA’. I had no idea what a PA was.” 

When Dave arranged an appointment with one of the named GPs, she diagnosed depression and anxiety, because of issues at work and a recent family bereavement. “She looked at my medical history and asked some much more targeted questions, pieced it all together, and recommended talking therapy and antidepressants,” Dave explains, who is now well.

However, he does feel that he was misled and waited longer for the right treatment because the PA did not explain her actual role, which they are supposed to do. 

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Source: iNews, 1 Jul7 2024


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