A Plymouth University training programme for a new type of healthcare profession, called a physician associate, has welcomed its first students.
Physician associates are largely new to the NHS healthcare workforce, but have been well-established in the US for nearly 50 years.
While not doctors and unable to prescribe, they work to the medical model of clinical diagnosis. The role is designed to supplement the medical workforce, thereby improving patient access.
The first cohort of 17 physician associate students at Plymouth University are from a variety of backgrounds, including nursing and biomedicine.
“I see the role of physician associates as a key role for the NHS workforce of the future”
Plymouth joined forces with NHS trusts to sponsor places for students on the course, and was the first university in the UK to secure sponsored funding of this kind for its students.
Five trusts each paid for a number of student places on the course, in return for a two-year contract of employment on graduation.
Professor Alison Carr, director of postgraduate education at the university, said the course would help to address an “existing and looming shortfall” in care provision across the UK.
“We are leading the way by working with hospital trusts who are combining payment of fees with the promise of a work contract on graduation,” she said.
“This is a truly ‘joined up’ approach and one which has attracted a lot of interest from colleagues around the country,” said Professor Carr.
Dr John Lowes, interim chief executive at South Devon Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust, added: “I see the role of physician associates as a key role for the NHS workforce of the future and am delighted to welcome our first students on this programme.”
Similar training is on offer at a small number of other academic institutions, mostly in the Midlands.
These are the University of Aberdeen, University of Birmingham, St George’s Medical School at the University of London, the University of Worcester and the University of Wolverhampton.
A physician associate course is also due to begin in September at the University of Reading.