This is a tragic situation and our first thoughts are with Emily Chesterton’s family. Hearing the Coroner’s report that her death was preventable will be devastating for them.
Physician associates (PAs) are healthcare professionals who work alongside doctors. They are not a replacement for doctors and must be supervised and employed as part of the healthcare team appropriately. The Faculty of Physician Associates (FPA) at the Royal College of Physicians (RCP) has always maintained that PAs work under the supervision of a designated senior medical practitioner, and that an individual PA's scope of practice is an agreement of delegation between that senior doctor and the PA.
The FPA code of conduct clearly states that PAs should be honest about their experience, qualifications and current role. General Medical Council (GMC) Good Medical Practice interim standards make it clear that PAs should always introduce their role and responsibilities in the team.
Statutory regulation is fundamental to a safe and effective workforce. The FPA and RCP have long called for physician associates to be regulated – previous delays have been frustrating, so we look forward to government laying the legislation required to bring PAs into regulation by the end of 2023. This should allow the GMC to open a register for PAs by the end of 2024.
In the meantime the FPA holds a managed voluntary register (PAMVR), which allows employers to check whether an applicant or employee is a fully qualified and approved physician associate. We recently re-wrote to employers about the importance of regularly checking the register when employing or appraising a PA. We can confirm that a conduct process is already underway and that this PA has been suspended from membership of the FPA and suspended from the PAMVR.
- The GMC guidance case studies for PAs and AAs: https://www.gmc-uk.org/ethical-guidance/ethical-guidance-for-pas-and-aas/case-studies-for-physician-and-anaesthesia-associates