24 May 2024

Royal College of Physicians announces next steps following report of short life working group on physician associates

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In summary, the RCP will now proceed to:

  1. publishing clear updated policy positions: 
    1. calling on NHSE and others to limit the pace and scale of the rollout of PA roles
    2. recognising existing evidence of significant PA-related patient safety concerns
    3. setting out a revised statement of support for the NHSE Long Term Workforce Plan
  2. writing to our fellows and members to:
    1. share the guidance around prescribing and requesting ionising radiation
    2. advise that they should only take on supervision responsibilities for PAs if they are a senior doctor (consultant, GP or specialist/associate specialist doctor on an SAS contract), appropriately job planned and funded for the extra time commitment
    3. clarify that the supervision and education of early career doctors (trainees, specialty and locally employed doctors) must take priority
  3. working with expert groups to clarify specific issues raised by the short life working group around scope of practice and supervision for PAs with matters related to prescribing, then writing to and confirming positions with the GMC
  4. limiting our focus to PAs working in the physician specialties, update the RCGP and other royal colleges on this decision, consult on new draft guidance for safe and effective practice of PAs, and encourage specialist societies to develop and publish advanced national scopes of practice with oversight provided by regulatory bodies
  5. launching a new cross-college programme of work to support and empower the next generation of physicians, while exploring and documenting the impact on training opportunities resulting from the introduction of PAs, through surveys and focus groups
  6. working with other national bodies and royal colleges to contribute actively to a national evidence base, economic analysis, and evaluation framework around the introduction of PAs, commissioned and delivered by external experts. 

No consensus was reached, either by Council or by the working group on the final recommendation – that the RCP should close the PA Managed Voluntary Register (PAMVR) to new members – so this has been deferred, pending a vote by Council members. Council members have until 4 June to vote.

The full set of recommendations from the short life working group, including proposed deadlines for their implementation, is available to download here.

There is also progress with publishing new guidance - Physician associates: Guidance for safe and effective practice. This has now progressed to the stage of internal consultation, with  external stakeholder consultation proposed for July.

Members and fellows will be updated regularly on progress with this work through Council and RCP communication channels.