Physician Associates (PAs)

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.

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.

Key Information

Scope of Practice

What is a physician associate’s scope of practice?

  • 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

Roles and Responsibilities

  • Manages undifferentiated,  undiagnosed cases by history taking, physical examinations and clinical decision-making to establish a working diagnosis and management plan
  • While they currently do not have prescribing rights, they can prepare prescriptions for GPs to sign

Are physician associates regulated?

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

Training Requirements

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.

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.

Funding

Both Physician Associates & Physician Associate Apprentice roles are reimbursable under the ARRS scheme.

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.


PA Apprenticeships Funding 

HEIs are currently in varying stages of developing programmes, with some currently recruiting for September 2023 or Jan 2024 starts.  See details of all course providers available here:


PA Apprenticeships Funding 

HEIs are currently in varying stages of developing programmes, with some currently recruiting for September 2023 or Jan 2024 starts.


PA Preceptorship Funding

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. 

As part of the nationally agreed funding model introduced in 2018, HEE have invested a £5000 education support payment for Practices/PCNs if:  

  • new PAs contract to work in Primary Care within the first 12 months of practice after becoming registered, and; 
  • upon delivery of a Preceptorship Programme which meets HEE Preceptorship Criteria outlined below. 

PA Preceptorship £5k funding will remains in 2023-24 for PAs post-qualification for up to 3 years after qualification.

Supervision Requirements

Recommended supervision:

  • Newly-qualified PAs will require regular supervision. Allow for one dedicated GP / supervisor whom can get to know the PA, and vice versa.
  • All PAs should have access to a named GP supervisor. Monthly supervision can be provided.

Devon Training Hub have recently produced a summary guide covering the supervision of all roles including GPs, Nurses, Non-Medical Prescribers, Advanced Practitioners and new roles funded through the ARRS scheme.

The guide contains the latest information on supervision requirements for each role, which team members of the team can supervise them,  & details of training requirements & CPD opportunities for supervisors. 


NHSE

Learning & Development

Preceptorship Year for Physician Associates in Primary Care

As part of the nationally agreed funding model introduced in 2018, HEE have invested a £5000 education support payment for Practices/PCNs if:  

  • new PAs contract to work in Primary Care within the first 12 months of practice after becoming registered, and; 
  • upon delivery of a Preceptorship Programme which meets HEE Preceptorship Criteria outlined below. 

Devon Training Hub Offers

You will find multiple training opportunities on our website. View our Training Calendar

DTH offer a range of modules relevant to first contact practitioners in primary care including: 

  • Introduction to Clinical Red Flags 
  • Consultations Skills & MDT Working 
  • GP How does it work? 
  • Chronic Disease updates 

For support and guidance on first contact pathway or other training needs please contact either Kerry-annevans@nhs.net or clarecambray@nhs.net 

For those new to primary care, we are pleased to offer a bespoke course to support you in your exciting new role; Transition to primary care (consisting of 4 F2F days in various locations in Devon) dates to be confirmed. Please contact Kerry-annevans@nhs.net for further information.  

For information on Communities of Practice / Peer Learning Groups in Devon & the South West please contact Devon Training Hub directly or click the link below.

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