Physician associates: Chair highlights PA issue in national media

Doctors’ Association UK (DAUK) chair Helen Fernandes highlighted the expansion of non-doctor roles in the NHS, saying the public was being allowed ‘to think they’re being seen by a doctor when they’re not’.

Ms Fernandes said: “I feel that they [PAs] have been mis-sold a degree, which is not really a master’s qualification. They’ve been mis-sold a career.

“It is a crying shame for both the NHS, patients and for the PAs themselves, that the initial design of their role has morphed into something that’s become this unimaginable monster of inappropriate use of people who are well motivated, and want to help in the care of patients but that are not qualified or trained to do so and never will be.”

Ms Fernandes was speaking to the Mail Online after Labour’s Wes Street, the shadow health secretary, said he was ‘depressed by the state of the debate’ around PAs.

In a speech at a Medical Journalists’ Association event this week he said it would ‘be wrong to throw the baby out with the bathwater, and just say “because of some legitimate concerns that doctors have, we’re just going to kind of slam the brakes on and end physician associates in the NHS”.’

Mr Streeting said: “I think it is important that we address seriously the concerns that doctors are raising, that we make sure that physician associates are deployed appropriately. That they work within their scope of practice, that they are complementing the role of doctors not replacing them or substituting them inappropriately.

“That’s important for patient safety. I also think it’s important for a much better workplace culture.”

Mr Streeting added: ‘I think there’s been a failure of leadership and not listening to doctors and allowing this toxic culture to erupt with barely any public commentary whatsoever from the leaders of this system.”

Ms Fernandes welcomed moves by the Royal College of GPs (RCGP) to recommend GP practices review their plans and halt recruitment of PAs until the role is regulated.

She said: “We welcome the RCGP’s report and would strongly support the recommendation to halt the further recruitment of PAs.

“We’d urge the next government to properly examine this issue and acts to ensure that standards are not compromised and patients are not being put at risk.

“Thousands upon thousands of doctors are expressing their concern, and patient safety must always be paramount.

“I have deep sympathy for PAs who find themselves in the middle of this, through no fault of their own. They, the profession, and the public are being badly let down.

“A resolution is needed for the sake of everyone, most of all our patients.”

The RCGP recommendation followed a number of concerning findings from a consultation, which was completed by 5,112 of its members.

These include concerns around patient safety and standards of induction and supervision of PAs working in general practice, the RCGP said.

More details of the RCGP report are available here.

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