Skip to main content

The proposed legislation to regulate Physician Associates will undergo further scrutiny in the House of Lords, delaying the previously announced timeline.

Originally, the Anaesthesia Associates and Physician Associates Order 2024 was due before the House of Lords today, 6th February 2024. However, it has been delayed amidst concerns from some doctors about the choice of regulatory body and potential confusion created by the title “Physician Associate.”

Doctor representatives are concerned the regulations will create confusion for patients by creating the impression that a PA is a form of doctor and suggest the title ‘physician assistant’ is more appropriate. Previous press releases by the GMC, Royal College of Physicians, NHS England, and Faculty of Physician Associates have all clearly stated that PAs are not a form of doctor. The PA profession is a standalone profession, with a recognised training pathway, curriculum, and career progression.

Physician Associates have been named “Associates” in the UK for the last decade, and many PAs believe that changing the name back to ‘Assistant’ will further exacerbate confusion about the role. The Government has confirmed recently that it has no intention to alter the title of the PA profession to ‘assistant’.

The House of Lords will now scrutinize the AA/PA Order 2024 legislation after the House of Commons approved it without full debate last month. The House of Lords may now amend the legislation.

A House of Lords motion brought by Baroness Bennett (former Green Party Leader, now a lifetime Peer) said the order ‘represents a significant constitutional change in the regulation of healthcare professionals by omitting parliamentary oversight and approval for regulating AAs and PAs; and fails to address concerns within the medical profession about the supervision and titles of the roles’.

Back in 2019, the government asked the General Medical Council (GMC) to regulate AAs and PAs. Following public consultation, the government concluded that the GMC is best placed to regulate PAs ‘as they form part of the medical team and are trained to the medical model‘. Regulation also paves the way for broadening their scope of practice, for example requesting ionising radiation where local governance allows and, in the future, the possibility of being able to prescribe.

The Faculty of Physician Associates at the Royal College of Physicians (FPARCP) has introduced guidance on the PA professional title and has pledged to introduce further guidance on the scope of practice and supervision of PAs soon.

The AAPA Order 2024 aims to establish the General Medical Council (GMC) as the regulatory body for PAs, setting standards for their practice, education, and fitness to practice. While welcomed by some, doctor representatives, including the Doctors’ Association UK (DAUK) and the British Medical Association (BMA), raised concerns about the lack of parliamentary oversight and potential patient confusion due to the title “Physician Associate.”

The FPARCP or GMC are yet to comment on the delay. No date is yet set for the House of Lords debate.

Leave a Reply