Physician associates: Call for roll-out pause as GP campaign refers to PAs as ‘physicians’

DAUK has renewed its calls for an immediate pause on the regulation of physician associates (PAs) after a poster campaign referred to them working in GP practices as ‘physicians’.

Dr Lizzie Toberty, GP lead for the Doctors’ Association UK, expressed concern about the continued roll-out of PAs and the risk to patient safety.

It follows the ‘It’s a GP practice thing’ campaign by Bradford District and Craven Health and Care Partnership.

The campaign referred to PAs as ‘physicians’ as well as referring to ‘cancer specialists’ working in general practice.

In a statement, Bradford District and Craven Health and Care Partnership acknowledged that the title of PA was ‘incorrectly labelled as physician’, and has apologised and said it is holding an internal review.

Physician associates

Dr Toberty said the campaign was another example of how the roles of doctors and non-doctors were being blurred and renewed DAUK’s call for a pause on the roll-out of PAs.

She said: “This campaign was at best a misguided attempt to explain the additional roles reimbursement scheme (ARRS). At worst it was a deliberate attempt to misguide patients as to who they are seeing in the primary care team.

“We are alarmed that GPs were not named as key members in this team. GPs are experts in primary care and community care and have huge value in the NHS.

“We would never refer to ourselves as specialists in any medical discipline and therefore it’s completely wrong to suggest to patients that when they are seeing a physician associate they are seeing a specialist.

“The additional roles reimbursement scheme is supposed to be exactly that, additional roles to support primary care.

“However, we are seeing increasingly that additional roles are being used to replace GPs, and this campaign is complicit in that.

Public protection

“The roles of doctors and non-doctors are becoming increasingly blurred, but PAs aren’t doctors and do far less training and are far less qualified than doctors, and there are massive concerns across the profession.

“Once again, we ask the General Medical Council (GMC) and NHS England to pause the physician associate project until we have more information about their scope of work and evidence that they are safe and effective.

“The safety and protection of the public must be paramount.”

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General election briefing

DAUK is holding a briefing for prospective MPs on Wednesday 19 June to discuss the crisis in general practice and things that could be done to tackle it.

The briefing, Why Can’t I See My GP? The Great British Paradox, will be held members of DAUK’s GP committee, including Dr Toberty, DAUK vice chair Dr Ellen Welch, and committee members Dr Steve Taylor and Dr Sarah Jacques.

DAUK is asking people to invite the candidates standing in their constituency to attend the briefing. Find out the candidates in your constituency at https://whocanivotefor.co.uk/

Find out more about the briefing.