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RCP responds to NHS England’s position on physician associates

Commenting on the letter that she has received from Professor Sir Steve Powis, Dr Navina Evans and Professor Sheona MacLeod at NHS England, RCP president Dr Sarah Clarke said:

"I welcome yesterday’s statement from colleagues at NHS England about the role of physician associates (PAs) in the wider multidisciplinary team (MDT).

"As I said in January, the RCP is clear that PAs are not a replacement for doctors, and this statement from NHS England reiterates the fact that PAs are not doctors and cannot and must not replace doctors. PAs must always work within a defined scope of competence, supervised by doctors, and employers must ensure that the supervision of PAs is never to the detriment of the training, education and supervision of doctors.

"The RCP is working with the Faculty of Physician Associates (FPA) to develop additional guidance on the scope and supervision of physician associates. Our consensus statement recognises that there are some issues to be resolved and we are working with our multiprofessional working group to develop this guidance as a matter of urgency.

"The NHS long-term workforce plan published last year was an important achievement and we should not lose sight of the fact that the plan commits to a substantial increase in medical student places over the next decade, something the RCP has long called for. In the meantime, it is vital that we do everything in our power to support and enhance the work life experience of all doctors, including the reform of the design and delivery of medical training and extra support for those doctors not in training programmes.

"Now more than ever, we need regulation of the physician associate role. which will establish reporting mechanisms that protect patients from harm. There is a role for PAs in the modern NHS as a regulated profession supported by clear guidance on scope of practice and supervision, collaborating with the wider team to provide excellence in patient care."