Statement regarding the outcome of the Anaesthesia Associate and Physician Associate Order 2024

The Faculty of Physician Associates (FPA) welcomes the outcome of the Anaesthesia Associates and Physician Associates Order (AAPAO) debate that took place in the House of Lords yesterday (Monday 26 February 2024).

The debate raised several important topics in relation to the physician associate (PA) profession. Following the debate, the House of Lords approved the draft Order that will bring PAs and anaesthesia associates (AA) into regulation. This can now be made law.

This milestone comes following a long journey of campaigning and commitment from the FPA and its membership. In 2022, the #RegulatePAsNow campaign was launched to highlight the importance of timely regulation, and how regulation would allow the profession to work to its full potential and ensure patient safety. The passing of the legislation now cements the PA title in law and confirms that the chosen regulator, the General Medical Council (GMC), can work toward opening a register for the profession.

This is a pivotal point in our journey and promotes the most important element in PA practice – patient safety. It also paves the way for the profession to continue working to contribute to the multidisciplinary workforce and confirms that the PA title will become a protected title in law in the future*.

In October 2023, we launched the ‘Physician associate title and introduction guidance for PAs, supervisors, employers and organisations’. This guidance document provides PAs, supervisors, employers and organisations with a structured and standardised way of using the PA title. We continue to encourage PAs, supervisors and employers to refer to this guidance to ensure that the role is explained correctly to patients – and that they understand who is assessing and treating them.

Now that the Order has been passed, there will be a period of 12 months before the law comes into force and the majority of its provisions take effect. During this 12-month window, the GMC will develop, consult on and make its rules for regulating AAs and PAs. As the professional membership body for the PA profession, we will continue to produce guidance to help provide continued clarity on the professionalism expected of PAs across the UK to support the safe delivery of patient care. This will include documents on supervision, scope of practice and career development.

In the lead-up to the GMC opening a register for PAs, the FPA will continue to operate the Physician Associate Managed Voluntary Register (PAMVR). In the interest of patient safety, we continue to strongly encourage all employers of PAs (NHS trusts, GP, PA agencies, and private healthcare providers) to check the PAMVR status of their PAs at regular intervals during the year. In line with current national guidance, we endorse the message that employers should only employ PAs who are listed on the PAMVR. You can learn more about the importance of employing a PA who is listed on the PAMVR.

We would like to take this opportunity to thank all of those individuals involved in working with and supporting the FPA on the journey to regulation. We thank you for your dedication and commitment.

February 2024

*This will not take effect until 3 years after the AAPAO becomes law. This incorporates 12 months for the GMC to begin regulation and allows a 2-year transition period, where those who are already working as PAs can register with the GMC register as PAs. After this transition period, it will be an offence for anyone to use the title ‘physician associate’ unless they are registered with the GMC as a PA.