Healthcare assistants could in the future play a bigger part in supporting practice nurses and doctors with administrative work, under national plans to pilot a new role in general practice.
Workforce planning body Health Education England is looking at creating the role – called a medical assistant – to reduce the “administrative burden” on clinicians in general practice and ensure they have more time to spend with patients.
“We are developing new roles, such as medical assistants, to determine whether such roles might reduce the administrative burden placed upon GPs and nurses”
HEE response to PCWC report
Medical assistants were first suggested by the Primary Care Workforce Commission – chaired by Martin Roland, professor of health services research at University of Cambridge – which reported in the summer on future models of care.
It said the role had been used in other countries, such as the US, to relieve healthcare professionals of most email and electronic tasks.
The workforce planning body’s response to the commission – seen by Nursing Times – said: “HEE agrees that the administrative pressures placed upon general practitioners and nurses is a barrier to their efficiency and their focus on provision of high quality clinical care.”
“As such, we are developing and evaluating new roles and ways of working to help combat this issue, and will be piloting new roles, such as medical assistants, in collaboration with Royal College of GPs and other partners in order to determine whether such roles might reduce the administrative burden placed upon GPs and nurses,” it added.
At an HEE board meeting last week, the body’s director of education and quality Wendy Reid suggested healthcare assistants could in the future take on this new role.
“I think there is an existing workforce there [for medical assistants]. The care certificate is a route into that workforce”
She said HEE was working closely with GPs to understand what competencies were required.
Ms Reid suggested the skills required could be in addition to the care certificate for HCAs, which was introduced in April. The certificate sets out standards for HCA training but is not mandatory.
“There’s a big piece of work to be done there [around medical assistants] and we started that work at the RCGP, because we fundamentally think this is about GPs defining what is needed,” she said.
She added: “I think there is an existing workforce there. The care certificate is a route into that workforce.
“We may well be looking at a ‘care certificate plus’ with this particular group,” she said.