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)
Phyisician 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.