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Found 21 results
  1. Content Article
    Physician associates (PAs) support doctors in the diagnosis and management of patient. They are often employed in general practice as members of the multidisciplinary team, trained in the medical model. This update outlines the Royal College of General Practitioners' (RCGP's) policy position on PAs. The RCGP sees PAs as having an enabling role to play for general practice, but highlights that they must always work under the supervision of GPs and must be considered additional members of the team, rather than a substitute for GPs.
  2. Content Article
    There’s been much discussion in the press and on social media about the role of physician associates and anaesthetic associates. Who exactly are they, and how are they trained? The Department of Health and Social Care says that they’re “trained in the medical model”—but what does this actually mean? Helen Salisbury gives her thoughts in this BMJ opinion piece.
  3. News Article
    Health Education England (HEE) and NHS England have warned BMA that its stance on medical associate professionals (MAPs) is impacting NHS relationships and patient confidence. HEE published an open letter to the BMA in response to the union’s call to halt recruitment of MAPs – which includes physician associates (PAs) working in general practice – until regulation is in place. The BMA Council passed a motion calling for a halt to recruitment of MAPs two weeks ago, on the grounds of patient safety. This followed a previous motion to that effect from its GP committee for England earlier this month. Proposing to bring forward a planned meeting with the BMA to discuss the matter, HEE’s letter said: "This continuing public discourse around MAPs is impacting relations between your members and their MAP colleagues, the health and wellbeing of MAPs already working in the NHS, and potentially the confidence of patients." HEE chief workforce, training and education officer Dr Navina Evans and NHS England medical director Sir Stephen Powis argued in the letter that evidence shows "MAPs are safe", and that they "increase the breadth of skill, capacity and flexibility of teams" and reduce workload pressure on other clinicians. ‘Any issues of patient safety identified resulting from MAPs ‘must be addressed in the same way we would any other profession’, the letter added. Read full story Source: Pulse, 27 November 2023
  4. News Article
    Medics who are not qualified doctors have been used in senior roles at Birmingham Children's Hospital. Physician associates (PAs) have worked as the responsible clinician in the liver unit with a consultant on call. The RCPCH said it had heard the concerns of its members and the need for a clearly defined physician associate roles and training pathways. The doctors' union, the British Medical Association, called for a delay on recruitment of PAs until the group was properly regulated and supervised. The trust running the hospital said the physician associates did not work in isolation and only did the role with the right level of experience. Introduced in 2003, the PA role involved supporting doctors so they could deal with more complex patient needs. Usually, physician associates have a science degree and do a two-year post-graduate qualification. They are not doctors and are not allowed to prescribe drugs. The role is currently unregulated with the government planning legislation for regulations to be introduced before the end of 2024. PAs have worked at Birmingham Children's Hospital for 10 years but the BBC saw rotas which show them on tier two - normally a rota for senior doctors called registrars. PAs were not allowed to work unsupervised overnight and there were consultants on call at all times to offer advice, they said. Dr Fiona Reynolds, the trust's chief medical officer, insisted the safety and quality of care offered to children, young people and families remained a priority for everyone at the trust and would not be compromised. "Although small in number, [the PAs] skills and dedication to offering the best for our patients complements that of their colleagues in all fields - all of which are hugely valued by our trust," she added. Read full story Source: BBC News, 21 November 2023
  5. News Article
    The BMA has called for an immediate halt to the recruitment of Medical Associate Professionals (MAPs) in the UK including Physician Associates (PAs) and Anaesthetic Associates (AAs). Doctors from across the UK who make up the BMA’s UK Council have passed a Motion which calls for the moratorium on the grounds of patient safety. They want the pause to last until the government and NHS put guarantees in place to make sure that MAPs are properly regulated and supervised. The move follows a number of recent cases in which patients have not always known they were being treated by a physician associate and tragically have come to harm. Professor Phil Banfield, BMA chair of council, said: “Doctors across the UK are getting more and more worried about the relentless expansion of the medical associate professions, brought into sharp focus by terrible cases of patients suffering serious harm after getting the wrong care from MAPs. Now is the time for the Government to listen before it is too late. We are clear: until there is clarity and material assurances about the role of MAPs, they should not be recruited in the NHS. “We have always been clear that MAPs can play an important part in NHS teams, and doctors will continue to value, respect and support individual staff they work with. But MAPs roles and responsibilities are not clearly defined. We are seeing increased instances of MAPs encroaching on the role of doctors; they are not doctors, do not have a medical degree and do not have the extensive training and depth of knowledge that doctors do. As doctors, we are worried that patients and public do not understand what this could mean in respect of the level of experience and expertise in care they receive. “The General Medical Council is the exclusive regulator of doctors in the UK. Adding staff who are not doctors and do not have a medical degree to the GMC register brings into question the competence and qualification of the whole medical profession. The Government may view this as a price worth paying for a shortcut to solving the workforce crisis they have presided over. We know otherwise. GMC regulation of MAPs will only add to the confusion and uncertainty that patients face. “Ministers may hope that by using secondary legislation, which may not even require the vote of MPs, they can avoid raising the alarm. But patients want doctors to remain doctors, regulated by a dedicated body, and they have a right to have confidence in the expert medical care they receive. There must be no doubt that when a patient goes to see a doctor, they are going to see a doctor. This blurring of roles and the confusion caused to patients must stop now.” Source: BMA, 16 November 2023
  6. News Article
    The BMA’s GP committee for England (GPC England) has called for an immediate pause in the recruitment of physician associates (PAs) in general practice. In an emergency motion passed on 2 November the committee expressed “concerns over the increasing trend of PAs being used to substitute GPs” and called on practices and primary care networks to stop PA recruitment “until appropriately safe regulatory processes and structures are in place.” GPs and GP registrars were also reminded that they can refuse to sign prescriptions and turn down requests for investigations made by PAs. Read full story (paywalled) Source: BMJ, 3 November 2023
  7. Content Article
    Recently, in the wake of growing unrest, plummeting morale, and industrial action, doctors have created an increasingly hostile narrative towards physician associates (PAs) on social media and raised repeated concerns about their impact on patient safety and training opportunities. In this BMJ opinion piece, David Oliver looks at the recent history to understand how we got here and discusses why we need a mature debate about these matters otherwise interprofessional solidarity and multidisciplinary team working could be harmed by the degree of vitriol and resentment.
  8. News Article
    Doctors are warning that patient safety is being put at risk as podiatrists and pharmacists replace GPs “on the cheap”. Dozens of family doctors have contacted The Telegraph claiming that talk of a GP shortage is “a big lie” and that they are being replaced by less qualified, cheaper staff, in a “crisis”. Documents seen by The Telegraph show staff including podiatrists, pharmacists and physician associates being used in lieu of GPs to diagnose and treat patients with conditions they are not trained in. In the most extreme cases, poorly children with viral infections, asthma-related issues and concerns about menstruation have been seen and diagnosed by a podiatrist – a healthcare professional trained exclusively to care for feet. It is not clear what happened to any of the patients afterwards, or if their parents were aware they had seen a podiatrist rather than a doctor. One GP said it was “a matter of patient safety” and the notion of “everything being supervised” did not work at a GP practice like it does in hospitals. Read full story (paywalled) Source: The Telegraph, 4 November 2023
  9. News Article
    Peter Marshall was delighted when he finally got an appointment after calling his GP surgery for several days. On the day, he saw a young medic who said his excruciating stomach pain was caused by irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and suggested over-the-counter peppermint tablets to ease the discomfort. And off the 69-year-old retired IT specialist went, happy to have a diagnosis and treatment. In fact, Peter hadn't had an appointment with a GP — he had been seen by a physician associate (PA). This is a type of healthcare worker whose numbers are about to soar in the NHS in order to reduce the pressure on doctors so that they can concentrate on the most complex and seriously ill patients. It all sounds like a great idea. Indeed, PAs are now being employed across areas that are particularly stretched, with around a third of PAs working in GP surgeries and 10% in A&E departments, according to the latest census by the Royal College of Physicians. But they are actually spread across 46 NHS specialties, from urology and surgery to cardiology and mental health. In this role, they are permitted to carry out a range of medical tasks, from performing physical examinations, diagnosing patients and analysing test results to running clinics and performing minor procedures — as well as doing home visits — all under the supervision of a doctor. However, in the case of Peter Marshall, although he was reassured by his diagnosis, his symptoms were, in fact, a sign of bowel cancer — and he died nine months later, in January this year. His sister, who has told Good Health his story, says: 'My brother had no idea that he had seen a PA and not a qualified doctor — he didn't know the word physician associate even existed, no one does.' The family, from London, later received an apology from the PA. 'Patients are so desperate to get an appointment with their GP, you are grateful to see anyone and whatever they say, you accept,' she says. Read full story Source: Daily Mail, 9 October 2023
  10. News Article
    Staff without medical training who fill gaps in the NHS workforce must tell patients they are “not a doctor” when introducing themselves, under new guidance. The advice has been issued to “physician associates” (PAs), a type of clinical role that requires less training than doctors receive, amid a row over their use in the NHS. PAs complete a two-year postgraduate qualification, but no medical degree, and can diagnose and treat patients. They can work in A&E or GP surgeries. NHS England has set out plans to expand the number of PAs to deal with staff shortages, with a workforce of 10,000 PAs wanted over the next decade. The plan has been met with opposition from doctors’ leaders, who say the growing use of PAs instead of fully qualified doctors is leading to missed diagnoses and deaths. Guidance published by the Faculty of Physician Associates, a part of the Royal College of Physicians, said that PAs must not mislead patients into thinking they are doctors. Read full story (paywalled) Source: The Times, 6 October 2023
  11. News Article
    The government ignored expert warnings to regulate physician associates (PAs) for more than two decades and now patients have come to harm, doctors have said. A leading doctors’ union blamed the “dithering of successive governments” for the “extremely dangerous” increase in PAs carrying out doctors’ duties. Jeremy Hunt, then health secretary, told a House of Lords committee in 2016 that the government was “committed to introducing legislation for regulatory reform” and it was “a question of finding a parliamentary slot”, citing Brexit debates as a cause of the delay. Seven years, two consultations and at least two deaths later, regulation of PAs is still a year away, following a series of delays that the Faculty of Physician Associates itself has called “disappointing”. Dr Matt Kneale, co-chair of the Doctors’ Association UK, told The Telegraph the lack of regulation “poses a significant risk to both patient safety and the overall standard of care within the NHS”. He said supervising doctors taking on the accountability for PA was not a “tenable long-term solution”. “Regulation could and should have been introduced earlier to prevent instances of patient harm. The lack of action for over two decades is concerning and requires urgent action,” he added. Read full story (paywalled) Source: The Telegraph, 14 October 2023
  12. News Article
    The medical regulator has told NHS England to ‘directly tackle’ a perception there is a plan to replace doctors with physician associates amid an ‘intense’ debate about their future. General Medical Council chief executive Charlie Massey wants NHS England and health systems in the devolved nations to address several issues surrounding the expansion of medical associate roles. This follows intense debate over recent weeks, including multiple media reports of safety incidents where the involvement of physicians and anaesthesia associates has been questioned. The debate has been partially prompted by ambitions in the long-term workforce plan to increase their numbers, and the impact this would have on post-graduate medical training. Last week almost 90% cent of Royal College of Anaesthetists members voted to pause the rollout of anaesthesia associates, after an extraordinary general meeting. This prompted NHSE leaders to stress to trusts that associates should be working within established guidelines and have appropriate supervision. In response, Mr Massey has written to NHSE, calling for it to: “Directly tackle the perception that there is a plan for the health services to ‘replace’ doctors with PAs or AAs by convening and leading a system-wide discussion on an agreed vision for these roles.” Read full story (paywalled) Source: HSJ, 25 October 2023
  13. News Article
    You might not have heard of a ‘physician associate’ - and that’s not your fault. They probably won’t tell you. A physician associate walks and talks like a doctor, but they are no replacement for one. To become a physician associate you need to complete a two-year postgraduate course or three-year apprenticeship. But despite much less learning than the five years a junior doctor must undergo to be qualified, they are often paid more than them. Which is why the government’s plan to flood the NHS with 10,000 more of them over the next 15 years doesn’t make any sense. There’s certainly no money-saving aspect. This is simply another corner-cutting exercise to quickly plug gaps in a struggling NHS that will put patients at risk. Far from saving doctors work (their original purpose), they often create more. Physician associates are unregulated so cannot be held accountable for their mistakes, meaning doctors must recheck any critical decisions they make. Critical decisions are made quite frequently in hospitals. But they’re not just overstretching doctors and creating more work; they’re harming patients. A recent Daily Mail investigation has found brain bleeds misdiagnosed as inconsequential headaches and lung disease mistaken for a chest infection. Doctors say they are “increasingly concerned” by this. Read full story Source: LBC, 16 October 2023
  14. Content Article
    Physician associates (PAs) work alongside doctors and form part of the multidisciplinary team. They work across a range of specialties in general practice, community and hospital settings. Anaesthesia associates (AAs), sometimes also known as physicians’ assistants (anaesthesia), work as part of the anaesthetic team. They provide care for patients before, during and after their operation or procedure. This General Medical Council (GMC) page outlines the roles of PAs and AAs and what the regulation will look like.
  15. Content Article
    The Medical Protection Society (MPS) is a member-owned, not-for-profit protection organisation for doctors, dentists and healthcare professionals. Here is there response to the Department of Health and Social Care consultation which introduces the regulation for Physician Associates (PAs) and Anaesthesia Associates (AAs).
  16. News Article
    A 30-year-old actress whose symptoms were dismissed as anxiety died of a blood clot. Emily Chesterton believed she had seen a GP, but had in fact been seen twice by a physician associate (PA), a newer type of medical role that involves significantly less training. Her parents, Brendan and Marion Chesterton, both 64 and retired teachers, said they have serious concerns about plans for thousands more PAs to be employed to combat staff shortages as part of the NHS Long Term Workforce Plan. Chesterton’s calf pain and shortness of breath should have suggested a pulmonary embolism and meant she was sent to A&E. A coroner concluded this would probably have saved her life. Instead she was told to take anxiety pills. She collapsed that evening. She was taken to hospital but her heart stopped and she could not be revived. Read full story (paywalled) Source: The Times, 10 July 2023
  17. News Article
    The UK's biggest chain of GP practices lets less qualified staff see patients without adequate supervision, an undercover BBC Panorama investigation has found. Operose Health is putting patients at risk by prioritising profit, says a senior GP. The company, with almost 600,000 NHS patients, is owned by US healthcare giant Centene Corporation. BBC Panorama sent undercover reporter Jacqui Wakefield to work as a receptionist at one of the UK company's 51 London surgeries. A GP working at the practice said they were short of eight doctors. The practice manager said they hired less qualified medical staff called physician associates (PAs), because they were "cheaper" than GPs. Physician associates were first introduced by the NHS in 2003, so that doctors could deal with more complex patient needs. PAs are healthcare professionals who have completed two years of post-graduate studies on top of a science degree, as opposed to 10 years education and training for GPs. They support GPs in the diagnosis and management of patients, but should have oversight from a doctor. Panorama gathered evidence that PAs were not being properly supervised at the Operose practice. The PAs told the undercover reporter they saw all sorts of patients, sometimes without any clinical supervision. They said the practice treated them as equivalent to GPs. Prof Sir Sam Everington, a senior practising GP at an unconnected partner-run practice, reviewed BBC Panorama's undercover footage and said he was concerned for patient safety. During the undercover investigation at the London practice, administrative workers also revealed a backlog of thousands of medical test results and hospital letters on Operose computer systems. One worker said they were tasked with getting through 200 documents a day, deciding which were important enough to be seen by a GP or pharmacist and which would be filed to the patient's records. One member of staff, worried about making mistakes said they sometimes used Google to help them work out what to do with the documents. Read full story Source: BBC News, 11 June 2022
  18. News Article
    The GMC has responded to senior medical leaders’ frustration at news that the Government is again delaying long-promised plans for its reform which would ease the strain felt by doctors. Its chief executive said its Council shared widespread disappointment at the hold-up in changing the legislation – which was expected this year, but will not now happen until 2024-25. Charlie Massey told Independent Practitioner Today: "Physician associates and anaesthesia associates are an important part of the health workforce and we welcome progress to bring them into regulation, which we will do within 12 months of legislation being laid by Government. "But we are disappointed that the outdated legislation for doctors will not be replaced at the same time. "The current framework stops us from being responsive and flexible in how we address patient safety concerns and register doctors to join the UK workforce. That isn’t good for patients and puts unnecessary strain on doctors. "The Government has said that it expects to deliver reforms for doctors as a priority following its work on physician associates and anaesthesia associates." Mr Massey called for a clearer commitment on the specific timing of that work, adding that the GMC wanted to progress better regulation for both doctors and medical associate professionals (MAPs) as soon as the Department of Health and Social Care laid the necessary legislation. "It is now the department’s decision when and how to implement these changes. When the department does implement these changes, we will be ready to start the process to put the reform changes into practice," he said. Read full story Source: Independent Practitioner Today, 9 August 2022
  19. Content Article
    Physician associates (PAs) are healthcare professionals who work as part of a multidisciplinary team under the supervision of a named senior doctor (a General Medical Council (GMC)-registered consultant or GP). While they are not medical doctors, PAs can assess, diagnose and treat patients in primary, secondary and community care environments within their scope of practice. PAs are part of NHS England’s medical associate professions (MAPs) workforce grouping. MAPs add to the breadth of skills within multidisciplinary teams, to help meet the needs of patients and enable more care to be delivered in clinical settings. PAs do not fall under the allied health professions (AHPs) or advanced practice groups. The Faculty of Physician Associates has created this guidance to provide clarity around the role of PAs. It provides practical examples of how physician associates should describe their role and is aimed at increasing understanding for patients, employers, other healthcare professionals and the public. It is important that PAs take all reasonable steps to inform patients and staff of their role and to avoid confusion of roles. This includes considering the potential for verbal and written role titles to be misunderstood and taking the time to explain their role in any clinical interaction.
  20. News Article
    The use of non-medics in clinical roles is leading to deaths and missed diagnoses, senior doctors have warned. Hundreds of doctors have signed an open letter to the leadership of the Royal College of Physicians (RCP), urging them to take a stand over the rollout of physician associates (PAs). PAs are a newer type of medical role that involves significantly less training than doctors receive. The NHS has used PAs since 2003 but concerns have emerged in recent months about them taking on more advanced work than is appropriate. NHS England set out plans earlier this year to expand their numbers significantly amid ongoing staff shortages. Now an open letter to the RCP’s council, to date signed by 46 fellows of the college and 194 other doctors, sets out concerns ranging from patient safety and liability to the fact that newly qualified PAs can earn more than newly qualified doctors. They say: “There have been several high-profile incidents in which serious illness was missed by a PA when undertaking a role that would normally be filled by a doctor. In some cases, avoidable deaths have resulted. “Given that some of these conditions required more advanced training than the PA had received, the implication is that rare avoidable deaths are a price society must pay for the replacement of medical staff with non-medical staff. We believe this trade-off must be debated widely not just by doctors but also by the lay public.” Read full story (paywalled) Source: The Times, 5 October 2023
  21. Content Article
    This debate was requested by Barbara Keeley MP of Worsley and Eccles South, following the death of Emily Chesterton, the daughter of her constituents Marion and Brendan Chesterton. Emily died in November 2022 after suffering a pulmonary embolism. She was just 30 years old when she died. The conclusion of the coroner was: “Emily Chesterton died from a pulmonary embolism, a natural cause of death. She attended her general practitioner surgery on the mornings of 31 October and 7 November 2022 with calf pain and shortness of breath, and was seen by the same physician associate on both occasions. She should have been immediately referred to a hospital emergency unit. If she had been on either occasion, the likelihood is that she would have been treated for pulmonary embolism and would have survived.”
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