Statement regarding The Anaesthesia Associate and Physician Associate Order 2024

The Faculty of Physician Associates (FPA) welcomed the consultation response to regulating anaesthesia associates and physician associates, published in December 2023, and the laying of the draft  Anaesthesia Associates and Physician Associates Order 2024  (AAPAO 2024).

This came following two 3-month public consultations carried out by the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC), first on the broader topic of  regulating the medical associate professions in 2017, followed by a dedicated consultation on  introducing regulation for anaesthesia associates and physician associates. During this time, members of the public, healthcare professionals and organisations had the opportunity to contribute to the consultations.

Following debate within the House of Commons delegated legislation committee (DLC) on Wednesday 17 January , the AAPAO passed successfully through the House of Commons on Monday 22 January . There was a debate in the Scottish parliament too, which also voted in favour.

The AAPAO was expected to be debated in the House of Lords on Tuesday 6 February. Following regret motions and a motion to decline, the debate has been rescheduled to Monday 26 February to take place in the House of Lords Chamber. The FPA welcomes the commitment and attention from parliament towards patient safety and looks forward to the future debate completing the next stage of the regulatory process. Timely introduction of regulation for physician associates is key to patient safety.

A previous FPA survey showed that 92% of physician associates reported that not being regulated had a negative impact on their team’s ability to move through caseloads, impacted the wider healthcare team, placed unnecessary burdens on doctors and caused delays in patient care. The NHS is currently facing a significant crisis with an extremely high demand for care and not enough skilled professionals to provide it. Regulation of physician associates would enable multidisciplinary teams to work more efficiently, and physician associates are one aspect of a future innovative NHS to overcome the challenges the whole workforce is facing.

The FPA has always maintained that physician associates are designed to supplement the medical workforce, thereby improving patient access. The FPA maintains that physician associates are not doctors as highlighted and explained in our most recent publication, the  FPA Physician associate title and introduction guidance for PAs, supervisors, employers and organisations and echoes the most recent statement from the Royal College of Physicians (RCP). The profession is designed to supplement the medical workforce, thereby improving access to patient care.  

The FPA recognises that there are range of views within the medical community. Supervision, scope of practice and career development is applicable and fundamental for all healthcare professionals. The FPA wants to once again highlight the collaborative work that the FPA and RCP are already engaged with within this area. Through the RCP’s multi-professional writing groups, the FPA and RCP aim to publish additional supportive guidance on supervision, scope of practice and career development for physician associates in the coming months.

February 2024

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