THE General Practitioners Committee (GPC) England passed a motion on 3 November expressing concern over the increasing trend of Physician Associates being used to replace GPs.
Commenting, Dr Katie Bramall-Stainer, chair of GPC England at the British Medical Association (BMA), said: “Today’s motion is about finding ways to protect patients by ensuring appropriate processes and regulations are in place. The BMA recognises the vital role that multidisciplinary teams play in the NHS. In General Practice, patients have long benefited from having access to a wide variety of healthcare professionals that can input into their care, from physiotherapists to diabetes nurses.
“Patients need to know and understand what each healthcare professional can and cannot do, and where their expertise is relevant. This is crucial in helping patients understand the care they’re being given.
“However, recently we have seen some examples in the media that suggest there is a potential blurring of the line between doctors and non-medically qualified professionals, leading patients to think they’ve seen a GP or other medically-qualified team member – when they haven’t.
“GPs are expert medical generalists with the experience and medical knowledge to diagnose, treat, and manage multiple and complex conditions. PAs are not doctors, they are not regulated, and cannot prescribe. At best, this is confusing – at worst, it can threaten patient safety. This distinction must be protected: PAs cannot be used as a substitute for GPs, or in place of a GP when supervising GPs in training.
“The GP workforce crisis is a result of the failure of Government to plan for the recruitment and retention of GPs, only by valuing and investing in the recruitment and retention of GPs will the experience and care of patients improve. While PAs may help reduce general practice workload in some cases, it should not come at the expense of patient safety.”
The motion text is as follows:
“That GPC England fully endorses the recent statement by UEMO [European Union of General Practitioners] expressing concern over the increasing trend of ‘Physician Assistants/Associates’ (PAs) being used to substitute GPs in English General Practice, and
i) Asserts that PAs are neither a safe nor an appropriate substitute for a GP.
ii) Calls for an immediate pause on all recruitment of PAs across PCNs and General Practice until appropriately safe regulatory processes and structures are in place.
iii) Reminds GPs and GP Registrars that they may refuse to automatically sign prescriptions or request investigations including ionising radiation on behalf of a PA.
iv) Asserts that it is entirely inappropriate and unsafe for GP Registrars to be supervised or debriefed by PAs.
v) Demands that PAs be appropriately and safely regulated by a body other than the GMC”.
* Source: British Medical Association