Skip to main content

NHS England has ordered hospitals to stop using physician associates (PAs) on doctors’ rotas.

NHS England wrote to hospital trusts this week to say that such staff are “not substitutes” for medically trained professionals – and should never be used as “replacements” to cover doctors’ shifts.

The move comes as The Telegraph newspaper published an article claiming that physician associates are ‘taking on doctors’ shifts’.

Government ministers, NHS executives and the Faculty of Physician Associates have repeatedly stated that Physician Associates and Anaesthesia Associates are not replacements for doctors.

The most recent letter from NHS England said: “It is important to emphasise that PAs are not substitutes for doctors; rather, they are specifically trained to work collaboratively with doctors and others as supplementary members of a multidisciplinary team.”

NHS England’s letter comes in the same week that the Royal College of Physicians held an extraordinary general meeting about physician associates. The RCP has opened voting on five measures after the EGM, that would aim to more tightly define the scope of practice of PAs, and potentially delay expansion of PAs. 

The measures would be advisory, but the PA profession may find it challenging for the RCP to continue to support PAs if all five motions are passed. NHS England has published its long-term workforce place, with PA and AA expansion seen as key to supporting the NHS.

Leave a Reply