COVID-19 - Update from FPA

(19/03/2020)

As the number of cases of COVID-19 in the UK grows daily, it’s clear that we are going to face several challenging months. The UK health and care system will face significant pressures.

It is vital that we all play our role in the coming months to support patients and each other. We have no doubt you will be as flexible as you can be in your working schedules, patterns and clinical duties.

We know that many of you have questions and concerns. We will do our best to keep you informed as things develop, but for the most up-to-date clinical advice and guidance, please continue to check NHS England, Public Health Wales, Department of Health (Northern Ireland), and information from the Scottish government.

At a time like this healthcare professionals need to be flexible in what they do. As physician associates we are medical generalists, so this may mean working in clinical areas outside of our usual area of clinical practice. This can be stressful, and we know that you may have concerns about the implications for you and your patients.

We will be guided by our professions training and principles: our code of conduct, competence and curriculum framework, and matrix of core clinical conditions. You’ll of course need to be mindful of your scope of practice and not engage in procedures or tasks in which you are not currently trained or entitled to do.

We know that you will use your judgement in applying your experience to the situation to make sure people receive timely and safe care. If you are asked to work outside of your usual area of clinical practice, ensure that you have a named supervising consultant in your new area. Delegated duties should be clear and agreed between you and the consultant before you start practising.

 If you were intending to recertify in the May diet of exams, we have made the decision to extend the recertification period by two exam diets. As the NHS will be under considerable pressure, candidates who were planning on recertifying in May will not be able to register for this examination if it goes ahead.

COVID-19 - Update for students 

As the number of cases of COVID-19 in the UK grows daily it is clear that we are going to face several challenging months. The UK’s health and care system will face significant pressures. It is vital that in we all play our role in the coming months to support patients and one another through this time.

The epidemic will need physicians associates and other healthcare professionals to be flexible and adapt. We know that PAs, as generalist, are well placed to meet the needs of patients throughout this period.

We know that many of you have questions and concerns. We will do our best to keep you informed as things develop but for the most up to date clinical advice and guidance please continue to check NHS England, Public Health Wales, Department of Health (Northern Ireland), and information from the Scottish government.

You may have seen that we have taken the difficult decision to cancel the National OSCE examination in May. This wasn’t an easy decision, but at a time of uncertainty we need to be able to allow all those involved (candidates, examiners, support staff) to be able to plan. We are currently in discussions with stakeholders to agree on a way forward for those candidates who would have sat the May exams, and we hope to provide an update shortly. We will also decide in the next few days if the May written examination is able to go ahead. At the moment we are running the national examinations in September as planned. If this changes we will let you know.

We know that students are also concerned about the impact that COVID-19 will have on PA students. While there are several specific questions that we will work to address in the next few weeks, I want to touch on the questions relating to clinical placement time and the national exam.

We will do everything we can to get people through the national exams as quickly as we can once the additional pressures relating to COVID-19 reduce. We don’t yet know when this will be, and things will change regularly over the next few weeks and months – so please bear with us.

We know universities are making plans to manage disruption to PA programmes and we are working with the PA schools’ council to agree on ways forward. 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, within the UK education system will be eligible to enter the national examinations and only those who pass can enter the MVR. The FPA is working on further guidance with universities and students (in collaboration with PA Schools Council) on what course requirements may look like, and we will provide this information to you as quickly as we can.

We know that these are challenging times, and things are moving quickly. We will endeavour to keep you as informed as we can as things develop.