Are you are being seen by a Doctor or a Physician Associate? (January 2024)

Published on 1 January 2024 at 21:25

Are you are being seen by a Doctor or a Physician Associate? 

1. Do you think the use of Physician Associates  (PA)  will help GPs treat patients?

2. Do you fear that they might be used as "substitute" for GPs?

3. Under what conditions would you feel comfortable having a  consultation with a PA instead of a  GP? 

4. Do you have any other thoughts on the use of PAs? 

You might take the opportunity to share your thoughts with us.

Please feel free to state why or why not. 

To help you answer these questions here is some useful information....


As defined in the NHS Employers Website, Physician Associates (PAs) are healthcare professionals with a generalist medical education who work alongside doctors and surgeons providing medical care as an integral part of the multidisciplinary team. PAs work under the supervision of a doctor but can work autonomously with appropriate support.  The first PAs were formally introduced in 2003.  The 'Employers Website' is the employers’ organisation for the NHS in England.

What do physician associates do?

PAs are trained to work within a defined scope of practice and limits of competence to perform the following duties:

  • taking medical histories from patients
  • carrying out physical examinations
  • seeing patients with undifferentiated diagnoses
  • seeing patients with long-term chronic conditions
  • formulating differential diagnoses and management plans
  • carrying out 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.

However, currently PAs are not able to:

  • prescribe.
  • request ionising radiation (eg chest X-ray or CT scan).

What training and qualifications do physician associates have?

PAs trained in the UK have undertaken postgraduate medical training in PA studies. These studies are spread over a period of at least 90 weeks (approximately 3,200 hours, divided into 1,600 hours of theory and 1,600 hours of clinical practice).

This is an intensive two-year course based on the Competence and Curriculum Framework for the PA, consisting of theoretical learning in medical sciences, pharmacology and clinical reasoning, as well as clinical placement experience in a wide variety of settings.

To enrol on a PA programme, students must already hold an undergraduate degree, usually in a biomedical or health/ life science field and have some prior health or social care experience.

How do physician associates fit into the NHS workforce?

As detailed in the NHS Long Term Workforce Plan the government plans to Increase physician associate (PA) training places to over 1,500 by 2031/32. In support of this, around 1,300 physician associates (PAs) will be trained per year from 2023/24, increasing to over 1,400 a year in 2027/28 and 2028/29, establishing a workforce of 10,000 PAs by 2036/37.


For further information on this subject here a few links to articles that raise concerns around Physician Associates.



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