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The long awaited NHS Long Term Workforce Plan came out in June 2023.

Much scepticism brought about of all things – much scepticism.

A huge expansion in medical and nursing associate training places, and of course, a nice fleeting mention of Physician Associate numbers increasing to 10,000 of us by 2031.

A fleeting message it was.

Our profession, currently numbering around the 3,500-5,000 mark (students included), is already sizeable compared to other emerging roles, and given the current trajectory (not considering this recent announcement), our numbers were forecast to grow to around 8,000-9,000 anyway by 2029… so if anything the NHS Long Term Workforce Plan has overlooked the Physician Associate role and underestimated how many of us there will be.

Arguably they haven’t quite considered finding the time and space to train us all in what now seems a hugely oversaturated healthcare system for student placements. Some things we did expect, however, is the big push into general practice and mental health.

Prevention is and should have been the NHS’s ethos from its conception in 1947, alongside the amazing care it provides. Avoiding hospital admissions do help save the taxpayer millions of £££ a year in costings, many of which can be managed in the community.

Mental health, seen as an ever more important speciality, especially since the pandemic is another area the NHS wants PAs to work in. However, I wonder how PAs are supposed to find an interest in mental health and choose to work in there – we only receive a week-long lecture on schizophrenia and SSRIs with a single 3-week placement during our studies. Does that little exposure help spark our interest?

I can think of plenty of things that can be achieved in 3 weeks or less.

  • You can win the Wimbledon Tennis Championship in 2 weeks.
  • You can sail from Portsmouth to New York and back again, all whilst having a whole week in New York, in under three weeks.
  • You can even FLY to the moon and back in a lot less – the Apollo 11 mission took 195 hours (around eight days).

What I am trying to say is perhaps the headline numbers are not what they look to be, and maybe, just maybe, more thought is given to how people are trained and taught in order to convince more of us to build a career in general practice and mental health specialities.

Because if this doesn’t happen, I’m sure ill be needing some anti-anxiety meds and SSRIs for the rest of my career – I just hope when I see my Physician Associate in general practice, you know what this means!

If you'd like to view the full NHS Long Term Workforce Plan, click on the button below to download the PDF.

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