Physician associates to be formally regulated

STATUTORY regulation is to be introduced for physician associates, the Government has announced.

The move follows a lengthy campaign by the Faculty of Physician Associates (FPA) and the Royal College of Physicians (RCP).

There is currently only a voluntary register operated by the FPA which has also published guidance for employers.

The Faculty describes PAs as a new generalist healthcare professional that is medically trained, working alongside doctors and providing medical care as an integral part of the multidisciplinary team. While PAs are not doctors, it is hoped they could be used to ease clinical workloads in primary and secondary care.

FPA president Jeannie Watkins said she was “delighted” at the announcement. “The government's commitment to regulation of the profession provides a strong foundation to embed PAs into the NHS workforce across primary and secondary care.

"We are excited about the possibilities that a new and growing workforce can bring in developing a health service that meets the needs of patients alongside our medical and healthcare colleagues.”

RCP president Professor Andrew Goddard added: “Regulation will both allow PAs to fulfil their potential and maintain high standards of patient safety.

"Achieving statutory regulation for physician associates has been an important priority for the RCP and the FPA. In the last year nearly 700 physician associate students have sat the national certification exam and have entered the workforce, helping to ease the pressures we are all feeling."

The Royal College of Surgeons of England (RCSEng) and the Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh (RCSEd) issued a joint statement describing the move as “an important step in the right direction” and called for the statutory regulation of surgical care practitioners.

They said: “It's crucial that we address the shortage of doctors trained to work in the NHS but we should also embrace innovative ways of working which improve patient care.

“With the appropriate training and support these roles [could] improve the quality of care patients receive and allow consultant surgeons and doctors in training more time to operate."

There is no word yet on which body will be responsible for regulating PAs or how this will be funded.

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