Mon. Jun 17th, 2024

The Royal College of Physicians (RCP) Council has published an update on its work into the physician associate profession.

Following the extraordinary general meeting of the RCP in March 2024, the RCP council met today to hear the recommendations from an RCP short life working group (SLWG), which was focused on the role of physician associates.

The SLWG was established following the RCP Council meeting on 10 April to develop recommendations for next steps following the extraordinary general meeting (EGM) and the ballot of fellows in March 2024.

The group was formed to:

  1. identify immediate and long-term objectives to deliver the outcome of the ballot on the EGM five motions.
  2. make recommendations on the appropriateness and feasibility of the actions the RCP committed to prior to the EGM.
  3. consider how best to carry out the recommendations, including who (individuals, groups, institutions) should be actively involved in their delivery.
  4. identify any learning for the RCP that comes to the fore during discussions.
  5. present an agreed outline of proposed actions for discussion at Council on 21 May, for sign off by Council via email by 28 May 2024

Chaired by Dr. Hilary Williams, RCP vice president for Wales, the working group comprised a group of diverse doctors at various career stages, and the Faculty of Physician Associates. The group met six times over the course of three weeks.

The SLWG has presented 16 recommendations to the RCP Council, the governing body for the RCP’s professional and clinical matters. The RCP Council has made the SLWG’s recommendations publicly available.
Dr. Williams, working group chair, emphasized the need for clear, nationally defined standards for PAs, alongside consistent clinical and professional benchmarks for competence, support, and career progression.

“The lack of national standards from relevant bodies creates confusion and jeopardizes patient safety,” Dr. Williams cautioned. “It’s imperative that we rectify this situation.”

Dr Williams writes that ‘ PAs themselves have been let down by a lack of coherent joined up oversight from national bodies over the past decade’ The past year, in particular, has had a serious impact on many individual PAs. Dr Williams recogises that many PAs ‘are living with uncertainty about their future and for some, a challenging social media environment has caused significant distress.’

In the foreword to the report, Dr Wiliams says: ‘As medical leaders, it is clear that we must support existing PAs with long term, secure and fulfilling career development before expanding the PA workforce any further.’

Dr. Sarah Clarke, RCP president, acknowledged the positive and productive nature of the discussions. She commended the working group for their swift development of a robust set of recommendations, and highlighted the importance of ongoing communication with members regarding next steps.

“This exemplifies the RCP at its best: leading and advocating on behalf of both patients and our members,” Dr. Clarke concluded.

Stick with THE PA+PER as we analyse what the recommendations from the SLWG will mean for physician associates moving forward.

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