Physicians Associates

What is a physician associate?

Physician associates (PAs) are clinical graduates, trained to the medical model and intended to seamlessly integrate with the modern healthcare workforce. They have received 4-5 years of training, having completed an intensive 2-year university course at diploma or Masters’ level and a 3-year biomedical or healthcare-related degree. In a few cases, the physician associate may have trained via a 4 year undergraduate Masters' of Physician Associates Studies (MPAS) course. With 37 Higher Education Institutes providing PA training programmes, there is an increasing number of qualified PAs in the UK.

PAs are intended not as a substitute for GPs, but as a complementary role, to work alongside the wider practice team in providing continuity of care for patients, especially those with long-term conditions. PAs can diagnose illnesses, develop management plans, and perform physical examinations. With support, PAs can conduct themselves autonomously; they require a named consultant for supervision purposes, but as they gain experience, the necessary level of supervision will decrease.

What should you look for in a physician associate?

When identifying PAs to join their PCN, GPs should look for candidates whom:

  • Have completed their postgraduate medical training in PA studies.
  • Have trained in the UK.

What is a physician associate's scope of practice?

A PA’s scope of practice covers:

  • Taking medical histories from patients
  • Carrying out physical examinations
  • Seeing patients with long-term chronic conditions
  • Formulating differential diagnoses and management plans
  • Performing diagnostic and therapeutic procedures
  • Developing and delivering appropriate treatment and management plans
  • Requesting and interpreting diagnostic studies
  • Providing health promotion and disease prevention advice for patients

 How much training do physician associates have?

PA students already have an undergraduate degree in life science, and / or a background in health care. To become a PA, students must complete a two-year, full-time, intensive postgraduate course at diploma or masters’ level in Physician Associate studies, which includes over 1,400 hours of clinical placement experience in both acute and community settings.

A new route to becoming a PA, via a four-year undergraduate Masters' of Physician Associate Studies (MPAS) programme has now been launched in a select few universities. 

Once qualified, PAs must maintain 50 hours of CPD per year and sit a re-certification exam every 6 years.

Are physician associates regulated?

PAs are set to be regulated by the GMC in January 2022. Prescribing rights are expected to follow this. 

Can I receive any funding for a physician associate?

From April 2020, the PA role will be reimbursed at 100% of its actual salary plus defined on-costs, up to the maximum reimbursable amount of £53,724 over 12 months, via primary care networks.

As of 1st March, 2021, physician associates are on the list of healthcare professionals eligible to apply to the New to Partnership Payment Scheme (N2PP). This scheme offers participants up to £20,000, plus a contribution towards on-costs of up to £4,000 (for a full-time participant) and up to £3,000 as a training fund, all for PAs transferring into a partnership role.

If you are recruiting a newly qualified PA you may be eligible for £5000 Health Education England funding that can be used to create a preceptorship programme. If you're interested in getting this funding then please get in touch with your regional Health Education England contact.

How should I go about recruiting a physician associate?

Recommended guidelines:
  • Ensure that your GP practice is clear on what role they need to fill, and the duties involved in primary care.
  • Write a clear job description detailing the duties of the role / what is expected of the PA. Bear in mind that the PCN will need to grant the PA some variation in working hours when offering the job position.
  • Produce a clearly-defined and thorough job plan for the PA, taking into account CPD / career progression and a means by which to monitor their progress in primary care.
  • Remember that newly-qualified PAs will require regular supervision.
  • Allow for one dedicated GP / supervisor whom can get to know the PA, and vice versa.

Where can I find a primary care physician associate job description?

Please link to

 The content of this page has been provided by : BNSSG Training Hub ( and adapted by Ross Raymond-Jones from South West Physician Associate Network(