Physician associates: ‘Roll-out needs to be slowed down’

DAUK’s Dr David Nicholl says ‘it’s time to take the foot off the accelerator’ and slow down the roll-out of physician associates (PAs).

Dr Nicholl was speaking after an extraordinary general meeting (EGM) of the Royal College of Physicians (RCP) held to debate issues related to PAs.

The debate was on five motions covering scope of practice, accountability, evaluation, the impact on training opportunities, and the pace and scale of the roll-out of PAs.

Dr Nicholl, RCP fellow and consultant neurologist, spoke in the debate and pointed out governance issues relating to the motions and what will be done if they pass.

“We’re pushing for all five motions to be passed and I don’t think the officers were reading the room,” he said.

“Everyone agreed with the first four motions, which is precisely why we need all five motions to pass.

“It’s illogical for the college to support motions one to four, but oppose motion five to limit the pace and scale of the roll-out until the issues of regulation, standards, and scope of practice are addressed.

“It really is time to take the foot off the accelerator.”

Dr Nicholl added: “I pointed out governance issue after governance issue with regard to what’s happening now in relation to motions one to four, that they agree with.

“But no-one said what we’re going to do about it, and what’s going to happen if motion five passes. Is anyone actually going to do anything?

“It’s a challenge.”

Dr Nicholl thanked DAUK members for completing a survey about PAs last year, which has formed the basis for a lot of campaigning and media work.

And he thanked RCP fellows who contributed to his talk during the EGM.

He said: “I’m immensely proud of what we’ve done but equally I’m extremely anxious about what happens next.

“I was neutral on this until last summer and it was only when DAUK did a survey of our members across the country alerted me that, Houston, we have a problem.

“So a huge thank you to every DAUK member that completed that survey.

“I’ve had nearly 50 FRCPs who inputted into my slides.

“I only had a 12 minute talk to cover five motions and there was a real breadth of expertise in that.”

The vote closes at 7.30pm on Wednesday 20 March and results of the fellows’ vote will be announced on 25 March.

The RCP said: “They will then be discussed by RCP Council at an additional meeting in April and the Board of Trustees in June, where any necessary action plans will be developed. We will update RCP fellows and members on the next steps as soon as we can.”