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The Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh have released a statement about physician associates.

The Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh (RCPE) is a medical royal college in Scotland. It is one of three organisations that sets the training standards for physicians in the United Kingdom. It is separate to the Royal College of Physicians (in London), which hosts the Faculty of Physician Associates.

The statement recognises the invaluable contributions of all members of the multi-professional healthcare team in providing high quality and safe patient care. The RCPE also said it believes that with appropriate education, training, regulation and support, physician associates can contribute to such care.

The RCPE recognises that clinical medicine is increasingly complex and calls for the unique role of the doctor as the clinician – with the breadth and depth of knowledge and skills to allow highly skilled clinical reasoning, complex decision making and the management of uncertainty – to be preserved and strengthened.

It recommended renaming of the profession to “physician assistant” to avoid confusion for the public with existing medical roles such as Associate Specialist.

Last month, the Government confirmed it had no plans to revert the professional title back to physician assistant.

The statement also said: “Physician associates are not doctors and must not be regarded as substitutes for doctors, but as supplementary members of the multiprofessional team. Statutory and meaningful regulation of physician associates is essential to enable the quality management, training and career framework and possible future career progression for this group to be more clearly defined. This regulation must include standards of practice and formal mechanisms to investigate and sanction malpractice.

“If the GMC becomes the regulator, the register they hold must clearly and simply differentiate doctors from physician associates. Supervision of the clinical practice of physician associates is vital if standards of patient care and patient safety are to be assured. We recommend that physician associates always have direct in-person medical supervision available to them.”

This week, the legislation for regulation of Physician Associates cleared another hurdle, passing through the House of Commons.

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