Health Education England continues to invest in the growth of the Physician Associate profession, supporting both education and workforce development.
Currently, there are approximately 1000 Physician Associates (PAs) registered on the Physician Associate Managed Voluntary Register (PAMVR). This register, held exclusively by the FPA, allows employers to check whether an employee is a fully qualified and approved physician associate fit to practice within the UK.
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Your next steps
If you have questions about this course or the role of a physician associate and want to discuss it:
Callum, a Physician Associate with Nottingham University Hospitals NHS Trust discusses why he chose this career path and what the role involves.
Watch to find out more about this relatively new role in the NHS and why it differs from traditional jobs in healthcare.
What does a physician associate do?
According to the Faculty of Physician Associates:
Physician associates increase the numbers of the medical workforce and increase access to quality care for patients. They act in an enabling role, helping to reduce the healthcare team’s workload, and bring new talent to the NHS, adding to the skill mix within the teams.
While trainee doctors and surgeons rotate through different specialties, physician associates offer continuity and stability both for patients and for the team in which they work. Physician associate support also provides cover so that trainee doctors can attend training, clinic or theatre.
How do physician associates fit into the NHS workforce?
Physician associates' ability to practise medicine is enabled by collaboration and supportive working relationships with their clinical supervisors, meaning that there is always someone who can discuss cases, give advice and attend to patients if necessary.
Physician associates can be found working in GP surgeries, accident and emergency departments, and inpatient medical and surgical wards throughout the UK.
What are the responsibilities of a physician associate?
Physician associates work within a defined scope of practice and limits of competence. They:
- take medical histories from patients
- carry out physical examinations
- see patients with undifferentiated diagnoses
- see patients with long-term chronic conditions
- formulate differential diagnoses and management plans
- perform diagnostic and therapeutic procedures
- develop and deliver appropriate treatment and management plans
- request and interpret diagnostic studies
- provide health promotion and disease prevention advice for patients.
Currently, physician associates are not able to:
- request ionising radiation (eg chest x-ray or CT scan).
Salary, progression and regulation
Physician associates can expect to receive a starting salary in the region of £30,000 per annum.
There is currently no structured career pathway, but with experience in this role, there is scope to develop your career further, and move into management, research, teaching, or further specialisation.
Health Education England is keen to see an increase in the number of Physicians Associates working in primary care.
How PAs work in general practice (with some really useful FAQs at the bottom of the page)
Physician associates in primary care - HEE activity and awareness raising about PAs in primary care
The new GP contract which PAs are written into (to save you reading the whole document, they’re mentioned on p3, 11 – 15, 100 – 101)
Compared to doctors, physician associates have much greater flexibility to move from speciality to speciality within their careers, e.g. from anaesthesia to paediatrics and general practice.
Physician associate examinations are run by the Faculty of Physician Associates, a department of the Royal College of Physicians.
How do I become a physician associate?
Course providers and entry requirements
There are between 30 and 35 universities offering this programme. Please note that the University of Nottingham does not offer the physician associate course.
Entry requirements are:
- most courses require that applicants have a science, life science, bioscience or biomedical undergraduate degree
- a minority of universities will accept a degree in any discipline and will require candidates to take the Graduate Medical School Admissions Test (GAMSAT)
- registered healthcare professionals such as nurses, midwives or allied health professionals can become physician associates
Applicants must apply to each course either directly to the university itself or apply through UCAS. Each course page on the individual university’s website will specify which application route is in place.
Nature of the course and funding
The course is a postgraduate diploma (PgDip) or MSc and is a two-year programme. Typical hours are 50-60 hours per week, six days per week, split 50/50 between taught and clinical practice.
Tuition fees for the PgDip course are typically £9,000 per annum.
Financial support during training
A training grant of £5,000 is available, split over two years. For further detail’s contact your course provider.
Once qualified, how do I find and apply for roles?
Applying for roles in the NHS and other healthcare providers
If you are you interested in applying for a role with the NHS or another healthcare provider, use our online guide to:
- understand where to search for vacancies
- prepare for an effective application which includes the importance of self-reflecting, researching your employer and understanding how you can best articulate your experience and motivation
- understand the recruitment processes for different roles and employers
Go to the online guide