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The British Society of Gastroenterology (BSG), after initially releasing a statement fully supporting the role of PAs in the speciality, has now announced a total shift in its position regarding the expansion of Physician Associate (PA) roles in gastroenterology and hepatology.

In a statement released on April 22nd, 2024, the BSG Executive body acknowledged concerns raised by its members, particularly trainees, regarding the potential impact of increased PAs on training opportunities and patient care.

Previously, the BSG supported the growth of PAs outlined in the NHS Long Term Workforce Plan and taking on additional skills in endoscopy. However, the newest statement highlights a lack of clarity surrounding the scope of practice, regulation, training, and supervision of PAs. These uncertainties have led the BSG to withhold its support for further expansion until these concerns are addressed.

The BSG emphasizes its appreciation for the contributions of current PAs in the field. The statement acknowledges instances where PAs have demonstrably improved patient care. However, the focus now shifts to ensuring future PA integration is implemented thoughtfully.

The BSG outlines its plan moving forward. These include:

  • Gathering evidence on the impact of PAs on training opportunities, particularly in GI endoscopy.
  • Contributing to the Royal College of Physicians document defining the Scope of Practice for PAs, with representation from BSG trainees.
  • Encouraging members to participate in consultations by the GMC and relevant colleges regarding PAs.
  • Addressing broader training challenges faced by BSG members. This includes advocating for protected training time in endoscopy and exploring mechanisms for trainees to raise concerns.
  • The BSG’s decision reflects a growing concern within the medical community regarding the potential impact of rapidly expanding PA roles without proper safeguards. This move highlights the importance of ensuring clear guidelines and robust training programs for PAs to guarantee optimal patient care and continued development opportunities for medical trainees.

In a growing trend with Royal colleges, it seems the lack of a defined scope of practice for the PA role is hindering the role of PAs across the NHS, and is severely affecting future PA prospects for finding employment. The PA+PER hopes the FPAs Scope of Practice for PAs, to be released soon, will provide clarity and purpose for royal colleges to use a foundation to successfully grow the PA roles in their respective areas.

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