Physician Associates Update February 2024

Statement / comment
06 February 2024

Update (28 March 2024)

For the latest on this topic, please see our March 2024 blog post, 'Addressing your concerns about Physician Associates' from RCPsych President Dr Lade Smith CBE.

Dr Lade Smith CBE, President of the Royal College of Psychiatrists, said:

“There is still much conversation about Physician Associates (PAs) and the role they play within the multi-disciplinary team, not just in the delivery of mental healthcare but across the NHS as a whole.

As I have stated before, Physicians Associates are not medical doctors, and have not undergone the same medical training or specialist education as a psychiatrist. In addition, their scope of practice is limited, and therefore, they can never serve as a replacement for doctors, at any level. They can, however, be a valuable support for us as psychiatrists to do our jobs.

“The members of the various Royal Colleges have been addressing the issue of PAs in different ways. At our College, we are undertaking a comprehensive review of the role of Physician Associates. The aim of this review is to create guidance on how PAs can best support the multidisciplinary team in the delivery of good quality mental healthcare to patients. It will take into consideration the competency framework, researched and developed by NCCMH, published in 2022.

“This review is already under way. I strongly believe this important piece of work will allow us to prioritise and act on the views and concerns of our membership in a meaningful way, with long-term impact.

“Additionally, since my last update, in December 2023 UK Government laid down new legislation to mandate the General Medical Council as the new regulators of PAs. We do not have any influence over this decision. However, we have been calling for regulation for some time as this will help standardise care and improve safety. Psychiatrists are responsible for leading the multidisciplinary team in mental health trusts and consequently have a key role to play in ensuring these changes are effective.

“We are already in discussions with the GMC about their new role and will continue to share with them, and other stakeholders including national training authorities (NHSE, NIMDTA, NES, HEIW) and UK Government, the views of our membership around PAs.

“We will keep you updated of progress over the coming months.”

More about the review

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