COVID-19: Update for graduate PA students affected by May 2020 exam cancellation

The FPA, in collaboration with Health Education England (HEE), PA Schools Council (PASC) and NHS Employers (NHSE), has been discussing how PA students affected by the May 2020 national examination diet cancellation can contribute to the NHS workforce during the COVID-19 outbreak.

Discussions have been focused around workforce pressures that have arisen out of the COVID-19 crisis. The aim is to create a process through which graduate PA students, who have completed their training and are ready to work, but who are yet to qualify, can join the workforce. Ensuring patient safety, and adequate support and supervision for PA students, has been paramount during these discussions.

Provisions for graduate PA students

It has been agreed that graduate student PAs who have completed exit examinations, but have either not yet undertaken or are waiting to re-take their PA national examinations, may be considered for an assistant proactitioner role (AP) - AfC band 5. 

This role will be offered on a fixed-term contract basis to support the NHS workforce during this challenging time and will be subject to a very defined job description and scope of practice, available on our website. 

Graduate student PAs interested in this role will be asked to fill out an expression of interest form and return it to the FPA. We will then liaise with NHS Employers, who will match suitable candidates with appropriate employment opportunities. Those graduate PA students who are employed in this role will be placed on a COVID-19 temporary tracking register, which will be held and managed by the FPA.

Provisions for student PAs

In addition, we are aware that many student PAs who are close to completing their training are also keen to assist in any way they can. As such, we have created the role of physician associate support student (PASS) . This AfC band 4 role is designed for PA students in their second year of study on a recognised PA course in the UK. These students will not yet have completed their exit examinations or the PA national examination. 

This role is being overseen by the various Health Education Institutes (HEI) in combination with NHS trusts. It is important to note that some HEIs may already have systems in place that enable students to volunteer, or to be employed in some other capacity. HEIs are not limited to the role outlined above; it is for each HEI to determine which mechanisms they use to support their students. While the job description can be found on our website, those students interested in volunteering for a PASS role will need to contact their respective HEI for further information on how to apply.

We appreciate that these are uncertain times and that many of you are keen to offer your assistance to the NHS wherever and however possible. Whilst the choice to offer and employ PA students in these roles will be at employers' discretion, we believe that these roles will enable many to do just that. 

While further information on the launch of this scheme will be announced over the coming weeks, we were keen to update you at the earliest opportunity. We want to thank you for your continued patience and support during this very stressful time and assure you that while we are not always able to communicate straight away, work is always going on behind the scenes and we are doing everything we can to support graduate PA students and PA students to join the workforce as soon as possible.