Government announces regulation of physician associates

The Faculty of Physician Associates (FPA) and the RCP said that they are 'delighted' by the UK secretary of state for health and social care, Matt Hancock's plans to move forward with plans to introduce statutory regulation of physician associates.

In a joint release, the organisations said that achieving statutory regulation for physician associates has been an 'important priority', which is now a 'significant step closer'. It added that the government had recognised the commitment and potential of the profession and will now work with the FPA and the RCP towards statutory regulation.

Jeannie Watkins, president of the FPA, said:

I’m delighted that the secretary of state has announced the regulation of physician associates. I know physician associates across the UK will today be celebrating this milestone for the profession. The government’s commitment to regulation of the profession provides a strong foundation to embed PAs into the NHS workforce across primary and secondary care.

We are excited about the possibilities that a new and growing workforce can bring in developing a health service that meets the needs of patients alongside our medical and healthcare colleagues. The Faculty of Physician Associates looks forward to working with the department and regulators in the months ahead as we move a significant step closer to regulation.

Professor Andrew Goddard, president of the RCP, said:

This is great news and really encouraging to see that, like us, the Department of Health and Social Care sees the huge benefit that regulated physician associates can bring to the NHS. Regulation will both allow PAs to fulfil their potential and maintain high standards of patient safety.

Achieving statutory regulation for physician associates has been an important priority for the RCP and the FPA. In the last year nearly 700 physician associate students have sat the national certification exam and have entered the workforce, helping to ease the pressures we are all feeling.

In a video posted on the Department of Health and Social Care website, Hancock said: 'This move will provide these workforce groups with an important foundation, supporting them through a strong regulatory framework and reassuring patients that they are continuing to receive the highest quality of care from the NHS.' The announcement follows a consultation launched by then health secretary Jeremy Hunt in 2017that would 'look at the roles PAs can fill in general practice and the wider NHS'.