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The NHS long term workforce plan recognises the need to ensure that both the PA and AA roles are suitably regulated in order to reach their full scope of practise. The General Medical Council (GMC) registration deadline is set for the end of 2024, with the potential to grant PAs prescribing authority in the future.

The regulation of PAs is a complex and time-consuming process. Deadlines have come and gone, and events like Brexit, COVID and governmental scandals seem to have delayed progress. However, the GMC and FPARCP remain committed to ensuring that PAs are properly regulated in the UK.

The GMC has said that it expects the regulation of PAs to be a positive step for the profession. It believes that regulation will help to raise standards of care, protect patients, and promote public confidence in PAs.

The GMC has also said that it will work closely with PAs and their representative bodies during the regulation process. It wants to ensure that PAs have a voice in the development of the regulatory framework and that their concerns are addressed.

For physician associates, it is likely to mean annual fees for GMC registration, and a re-validation process and appraisals that are more in line with the doctor’s processes already in place.

The NHS long term workforce plan has made some significant promises, including doubling university places for medical students, a new apprenticeship scheme for doctors, and even shortening medical degrees by a year.

For physician associates, the plan talks about the ambition of qualifying 1,500 PA students a year with the aim of 10,000 PAs within a few years.  

Overall, while there is plenty to be enthusiastic about in the employment plan for PAs, I can see some potential issues with placement capacity and supervision of students.

And of course, issues such as the political environment and economy cannot be overlooked; a general election is due within the next 12-18 months, and a new administration may wish to follow a new plan. So whether the long term plan will be enacted in full, and whether it will be enough to save the NHS, remains to be seen…   

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