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There have been angry comments posted online against a Physician Associate job advert, which sought a PA to supervise colleagues including junior doctors and nurses.

A doctor shared passages of a PA job vacancy on X (formerly Twitter), from an NHS Highland advert. The job advert was looking for a physician associate who would “participate in all aspects of the patient pathway including initial assessment and triage.”

NHS Highland insists the job advert was posted “in error” and it has now been amended.

The controversial part of the advert was that the PA “will actively undertake clinical supervision of ward nursing staff, junior doctors, and student PAs to facilitate the development of clinical skills and practice.”

There were many responses to the initial post on X, with some questioning why “someone with no registration or regulation would be supervising me as a registered nurse?”

Others said it was “completely irresponsible”, and a “race to the bottom”. Another responded: “Imagine being supervised by someone who can’t even prescribe paracetamol.”

A spokesman told the Herald newspaper: “We are reviewing all job descriptions for physicians (sic) associates to ensure they comply with appropriate specifications.”

The Faculty of Physician Associates at the Royal College of Physicians is expected to publish guidance on the supervision of PAs in the workplace shortly.

Both the UK and Scottish Governments have recently signalled plans to grow the physician associate workforce within the NHS in what is perceived by medical trade unions as a cut-price alternative to training enough doctors.

It is estimated that there are about 200 PAs working across Scotland in the NHS currently.

A BMA survey of 1700 doctors working in NHS Scotland, published recently, found that 80% believe the way PAs currently work “is always, or sometimes, a risk to patient safety”. Concerns included patient confusion and a “clear impact on junior doctors” because “senior doctors simply do not have the time to effectively train two separate professions”.

The legislation needed to enable the GMC to regulate PAs and AAs was laid before Parliaments in both England and Scotland on 13th December 2023; GMC regulation of PAs and AAs is anticipated to take effect at the end of 2024, which will hopefully alleviate the concerns raised by BMA doctors in NHS Scotland

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