Physician associates in general practice
Physician associates (PAs) are a relatively new member of the clinical team, seen as complementary to GPs rather than a substitute. In October 2018 secretary of state for health and social care Matt Hancock announced the introduction of statutory regulation for physician associates and physician assistants in anaesthesia, following direct engagement with the NHS workforce.
PAs can fulfil an enabling role in general practice, taking on certain areas of workload, helping to free GPs to focus on the more complex patient cases as well as other staff, such as nurses so they can focus on their areas of competency. This means that GPs can continue to lead multi-disciplinary teams to adapt to the evolving healthcare needs of patients in response to the growing and ageing population.
This does not mitigate the need to address the shortage of GPs or reduce the need for other practice staff. Instead PAs can help to broaden the capacity of the GP role and skill mix within the practice team to deliver patient care.
There is a lot of general information in the employers section, that as a GP or practice manager you may find useful. You can also watch videos of physician associates talking about their work in general practice.
An employer's guide to physician associates is an 8-page document intended to advise on:
- the current education and regulatory framework for the profession
- employment and supervision
tools to help guide appraisal, career and salary progression
- recommendations for continuing professional development (CPD).
Your local Health Education England (HEE) area leads
Please get in touch if you need more national or local information, discuss ideas or help answer your questions.
- Kent, Surrey & Sussex. Professor Hilary Diack. Head of Primary and Community Care Education. [email protected]
- North London. Fleur Overington. Associate Workforce Transformation Lead. [email protected]
- South London. Elaine Lancaster. Associate Workforce Transformation Lead. [email protected]
- Midlands & East. Christopher Lawson. Project Manager. [email protected]
- North. Judith McGregor. Physician Associate Programme Lead. [email protected]
- Wessex. Sue Hill. Workforce Transformation Lead Wessex. [email protected]
- South West. Marc Lyall. Transformation and Education Development Lead. [email protected]
- Thames Valley. Tessa Candy. Associate Workforce Transformation Lead. [email protected]
Studies from general practice in both England and Scotland have shown physician associates to be safe, effective and liked by patients. The Faculty of Physician Associates run an annual census for all UK PAs and student PAs
Other examples include:
- Barriers and facilitators to integration of physician associates into the general practice workforce 2017
- RCGP position paper on physician associates working in general practice 2017
- Investigating the contribution of physician assistants to primary care in England: A mixed methods study updated 2016
- Physician associates and GPs in primary care: a comparison 2015
- BMA LMC Briefing on physician associate 2015
There are a number of downloadable resources after the FAQs. They are for guidance and may be adapted as required.