COVID-19 Response - Frequently Asked Questions

Will students who have completed their studies and are eligible to sit the cancelled May National Examination be fast tracked onto the PAMVR ?

We understand that the delay to the May national examination will impact some people’s ability to work and earn an income. With that being said, the only way to qualify as a PA is to successfully pass the national exam and join the FPA, which allows entry onto the PAMVR. Without this, you cannot work as a qualified PA. We understand there have been some people suggesting lowering this standard, however this is not an option and there will be no fast track to the PAMVR.

What is the current alternative for student PAs who have graduated their studies, but cannot sit the National Examination, and therefore cannot be included on the PAMVR?

One of the things we are proud of, is that all current PAs have qualified to the same standard, and this will not be changing.  It is important that all qualified PAs qualify in the same way and to the same standard.  That said, please be assured that we are working with various stakeholders (including HEE), to see how the group of people affected by the May examination delay can still be utilised within the workforce in the meantime. As you will appreciate, until we have something concrete to share, we cannot give any further information. We need to have these important discussions, and we will provide you with an update as soon as possible.

What are the CPD requirements for PAs for 2019/2020? The CPD year ends on 31 March, what happens if your CPD events were cancelled at the end of March due to COVID-19?

The CPD diary year runs from 1 April to 31 March each year, with an annual credit requirement of 50 CPD credits, given as a guide to ensure members reach their required CPD hours.  We appreciate that we must allow for unexpected or special circumstances, such as these times with COVID-19 and so the FPA run a five year rolling programme for CPD requirements. The credit requirements over five years are a total of 250 CPD Credits. Of these, at least 125 should be Clinical External and at least 25 should be Non-Clinical External credits. 

The rolling cycle was specifically designed to deal with situations where participation in CPD may be difficult or impossible for periods of time. In such circumstances, the use of a rolling cycle allows PAs to make up CPD credits at a later time, ensuring the average amount of activity to be maintained over five years, if a shortfall happens in any one period.

What are the CPD requirements for PAs for 2020/2021 due to COVID-19 impacting the ability to access CPD events?

As above.

Can PA students who are in the middle of their training volunteer their time during COVID-19?

Students who are in the middle of their studies may volunteer during this period; however, should do so with the support of their HEI.

Will the required clinical placement hours change for student PAs?

The FPA and PASC recommend that during the ongoing COVID-19 crisis, courses training Physician Associates in the UK accept no fewer than 1400 hours of clinical practice in order to be able to meet the clinical requirements for the course. As an interim measure, the requirements for the clinical specialty hours will have a degree of flexibility and students unable to complete the required hours in a certain speciality will be permitted to complete hours in other clinical areas in order to compensate for this and meet the overall total number of hours. Simulation does not count towards these hours. In addition to the minimum of 1400 clinical hours, it is expected that all students complete the appropriate assessments within their University programme leading to a postgraduate diploma or MSc approved by the relevant exam board.

The entry requirements for the PA National Exam (SBA and OSCE) remain unchanged where all those who have completed the requirements of a university programme in Physician Associate studies, with the CCF as the underlying requirement, within the UK education system will be eligible to enter the national examinations, and only those who pass can enter the MVR.

For more information around this decision:

If PA students, who have previous backgrounds in other healthcare professions (e.g. nurse, radiographer, biomedical scientist) go back into their previous profession during COVID-19, can these hours count towards their required 1400 clinical placement hours?

Many students are asking about the potential for making up learning hours whilst in a volunteering role or returning to a previous role.  This needs to be done in discussion with their host HEI and if these hours are to contribute to their overall learning hours careful documentation of their experience is required. It remains the HEIs’ responsibility to verify that these hours contribute towards the students’ hours’ requirements.

Are all University placements suspended? Is this a blanket decision or is it up to the University to decide for each individual course?

We understand that many universities have now had to suspend placements in light of the pressures placed upon services by COVID-19.  Whilst we do not understand this to be a blanket decision as such, universities are working hard with the various Trusts and practices to ensure the safety of their students, as well as patient care and safety.  For many this has resulted in placements being postponed or cancelled whilst the COVID-19 crisis continues.  We are working closely with the PA Schools Council to consider the impact of these cancelled placements and ask that you continue to work patiently with your HEIs at this time.

Can PAs go outside of their scope of practice during COVID-19 (e.g. requesting imaging, bloods or prescribing medication)?

No, there will be no change to a PA’s scope of practice during this time. The PA profession remains a supervised profession and PAs are still not yet regulated. For the safety of our patients and of PAs, there are still limitations on what PAs can do, which includes those around prescribing rights, requests for x-rays and ionising radiation requests.