Stop hiring physician associates, Royal College advises GPs

21st June 2024 by NASGP

Stop hiring physician associates, Royal College advises GPs

GPs have been advised to ‘halt’ recruiting physician associates (PAs) by the Royal College of GPs, following its consultation with more than 5,000 of its members.

The College has also advised that where practices have already recruited PAs, that they assign both GPs and PAs ‘appropriate time’ for supervision, that GPs triage all patients that the PA sees before seeing them, and that PAs are identified ‘on the practice website, on consulting room doors, on name badges and when appointments are booked’.

The RCGP has also called on all UK governments to commission an urgent review into PAs’ role in the NHS.

The PA role is a controversial new addition to practice teams, so much so that at the last Local Medical Committees’ conference, GPs submitted a motion to limit their workload to admin and ‘simple procedural duties’.

Although the General Medical Council plans to regulate PAs and AAs from December onwards, at present neither role is regulated.

Dr Richard Fieldhouse, NASGP chair and GP, said: “Whilst this news is no surprise, it is going to require a significant change in behaviour by practices, GPs and Physician Associates themselves.

“And given that this sea change in evidence-based guidance on how we work with our non-GP colleagues comes from the College, and assuming it becomes established, non-adherence of this guidance could prove significantly challenging from a medicolegal point of view should any clinical errors arise due to poor supervision.

“GP locums can especially have a positive role to play here, skilled and experienced as we are in new environments, unburdened by the complacency that can come naturally from working in the same place for long periods. Should any of us come across a breach in this guidance, a friendly nod to the practice manager, perhaps via NASGP’s significant event form, can be a helpful, constructive way to keep patients – and staff – safe.”

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