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Trust to recruit 200 physician associates for national scheme


Hillingdon Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust in north west London will recruit 200 physician associates on behalf of over 40 trusts across the country.

The trust has been asked to manage the recruitment process for the two year initiative by the National Physician Associate Expansion Programme, which was set up to increase the number of physician associates working in the NHS.

It is hoped an increased number of associates will help trusts tackle their workforce shortages and retention difficulties.

Physician associates work under the direct supervision of doctors and are trained to take medical histories, perform examinations, diagnose illnesses, analyse test results and develop management plans.

They are educated to degree level and have two years of postgraduate training. Their education focuses mainly on general medicine rather than specialty care.

It is anticipated that the majority of candidates will come from the US, because of the level of experience required. Over 40 providers have signed up to the programme.

The associates will join multidisciplinary teams, which include junior doctors, consultants, nurses and nurse practitioners. They will be given an induction and have a mentor each.

Seven of the recruited associates will work at Hillingdon and the rest will be deployed throughout the UK to support hospital doctors and GPs.

The programme has decided to put one trust in charge of the recruitment to act as a central point of contact for applications and to ensure consistent communications with US recruitment companies.

This is also seen as a cost effective way to recruit because it prevents duplication across different providers.



Readers' comments (8)

  • michael stone

    NHS England is currently testing something which - based on what my CCG sent me last week - might be seen [in part] as using clinical pharmacists 'as a sort-of GP replacement'.

    I think - not an idea I like, and I've just e-mailed NHS England about the scheme because it doesn't seem the best model at my first glance.

    You can't help feeling that 'there will soon be a serious shortage of GPs' is influencing someone's thinking at the moment (as well as the usual 'cost issues').

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  • michael stone | 14-Sep-2015 1:34 pm

    your CCG? - you mean to say you are now in a commissioning group! heaven help the patients!

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  • This is an interesting development for patient care. There appears to be no mention within the physician assistant role, if these practitioners will be able to prescribe? I suspected that they won't be able to as nursing has taken decades to get the right to independently prescribe, with robust training and assessment practices. If a physicians assistant can assess, examine and diagnose but can't prescribe this will cause problems, they will be in the position nurses were 20 years ago, waiting outside GP's doors for prescriptions to be signed!!

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  • Surely they will be doing the work that the junior doctors do now. How will that affect the experience the junior doctors require to progress? I would be interested to knowwhat pay band they will be on and what their level of responsibility will be.

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  • michael stone

    Anonymous | 14-Sep-2015 9:16 pm

    'My CCG' is pretty obviously the one commissioning GP services in my area - I'm guessing you already grasped that.

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  • I am disappointed that we cannot take recruits from our own country - we have science degrees too and UK nurses would perhaps jump at the chance. Huge disappointment with this turn of events. Was anybody outside the medical profession consulted on this.

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  • michael stone

    Anonymous | 15-Sep-2015 9:30 am

    Good question - and analysis - re prescribing.

    It seems, that at present they cannot prescribe - however, that could change:

    Exclusive The Government is considering whether physician associates should be given prescribing powers as part of its ‘new deal’ to relieve the pressures on GPs, Pulse has learnt.

    The Department of Health has told Pulse this was one of ‘a range of issues’ it was considering ahead of recruiting 1,000 new physician associates to work in practices by 2020.

    Jeremy Hunt promised the physician associates as part of a plan to recruit 5,000 new practice support staff over the next five years.

    Giving them prescribing powers would add to their working role - as currently listed by NHS Careers - that includes taking medical histories; performing examinations; diagnosing illnesses; analysing test results and developing management plans.

    But GP leaders have warned that adding prescribing to this list is unlikely to make much difference to the ongoing workforce crisis.

    Mr Hunt recently watered down his committment before the election to recruit 5,000 more GPs saying that this was ‘a maximum’, but a Department of Health spokesperson told Pulse it was pressing ahead with plans for 1,000 more physician associates.

    He said: ‘Together with NHS England and Health Education England we are considering how to ensure 1,000 physician associates will be available to work in general practice by September 2020. A range of issues and possible solutions have to be considered, including prescribing responsibilities and whether and how they need to be regulated.’

    Physician associates are currently science graduates who have completed a two-year training course, however, it is not mandatory for them to be officially registered.

    Research from Kingston University and St George’s University of London this year claimed that physician associates can take on some of GPs’ daily work without any harm to patients and at lesser cost to the NHS.

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  • I an saddened that our NHS is to develop an exciting new role that is out of reach for many of our experienced nurses to the point that we need to bring nurses from America. Is the 2 year post grad course available here to upskill our own? Where is the investment and development in our existing workforce? No wonder they are leaving in droves

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