BMA and RCN strike action – guidance from the Faculty of Physician Associates

The Faculty of Physician Associates (FPA) recently signed a public statement as part of the Royal College of Physicians (RCP) – Statement from the physician community on the BMA ballot for industrial action. We want to reiterate that the FPA recognises that many doctors, nurses and other healthcare professionals feel demoralised and fully respects the right of trade union members to go on strike. The FPA echoes the recent statement from the RCP about the need for a sustainable health service and investing in the workforce.

The FPA is not a trade union and does not provide members with assistance or services relating to contractual or industrial action-related matters. However, as the professional body for physician associates (PAs) in the UK, it is important that we provide our members with supportive guidance during the upcoming strike action that has been planned by the British Medical Association (BMA) and Royal College of Nursing (RCN).

It is highly unlikely that an employer, or supervising doctor, would ask a PA to take on additional duties that they would not normally undertake in their day-to-day practice on days of strike action. However, this guidance has been published in case you do feel uncomfortable in what may be challenging work environments on strike days.

Qualified FPA members

PAs registered on the Managed Voluntary Register (PAMVR) agree to abide by the Code of Conduct for Physician Associates, which states: ‘You must recognise and work within the limits of your competence.’

As healthcare professionals, PAs are accountable for the care they provide to patients, including acts and omissions in care.

On days when industrial action takes place, PAs should ensure that they continue to work only within their agreed scope of clinical practice and competence. PAs must not take on roles, tasks or responsibilities that fall outside of that competence. This may include, for example, not holding bleeps that they are not comfortable being responsible for.

Student FPA members

Student PAs complete a series of rotations in primary and secondary care during their pre-registration training. We remind students that in the clinical environment, they are personally responsible for their acts and omissions in a patient’s care where they are directly interacting with – or providing care for – a patient. Student PAs should not take on roles, tasks or responsibilities that fall outside of their agreed educational plan.

On placement, student PAs are there in an educational capacity, and in a supernumerary role. Student PAs should not be used in replacement of striking qualified members of staff. Student PAs should take note of the guidance above for qualified FPA members.

BMA consultant strike action – updated guidance (July 2023)

Consultant members of the BMA are scheduled to engage in industrial action for 48 hours from 20 July 2023. During this time, the level of care that will be provided will be equivalent to that delivered on ‘Christmas Day’. Emergency care would continue to be provided, but elective or non-emergency care may be cancelled. This means a consultant medical practitioner would be present on days of industrial action to deliver emergency care to patients.

PAs work in collaboration with, and under the supervision of, a named consultant or GP. A PA who is working on a day when consultants are taking industrial action must confirm which consultant will be covering the on-call, and how to contact them, before beginning their shift. PAs must continue to work in line with the FPA Code of Conduct and remain within their scope of practice as agreed with their dedicated supervisor.

About the FPA

The Faculty of Physician Associates (FPA) is the professional membership body for Physician Associates (PAs) in the United Kingdom, representing the profession, supporting professional development, campaigning for progress and change in the profession and taking part in national debates on medical, clinical and public health issues. The FPA’s draft PA curriculum guides universities in the development of their PA courses, providing a standardised framework to ensure high-quality PA education across the UK.