The Faculty of Physician Associates (FPA) and Royal College of Physicians (RCP) welcome the Department of Health and Social Care’s (DHSC) updated position on Physician Associate (PA) regulation and wider regulatory reform.
The update from DHSC sets out a new proposed timetable for bringing PAs and Anaesthesia Associates (AAs) into regulation.
PAs and AAs need to be written into legislation to be brought into regulation. The DHSC had previously proposed a single legislative order which would have introduced regulation for PAs and AAs and introduced reformed legislation for the GMC’s regulation of doctors, but with the reforms for doctors commencing later.
To mitigate the risk of any further delay to the regulation of PAs and AAs, and bring them into regulation as soon as possible, the DHSC has decided to separate out the two orders. It will now bring forward a separate order that will bring PAs and AAs into regulation without changing the GMC’s regulatory framework for doctors in the first instance. This order to bring PAs into regulation will be based on a new regulatory framework, which will then be used as a template for the reforms of all regulatory bodies.
The new timetable set out by the DHSC means the draft legislative order that will bring PAs and AAs into regulation will be published for a 12-week public consultation in the autumn of 2022. The consultation will give stakeholders a chance to scrutinise the proposed legislation and highlight any concerns or areas for further consideration.
After the consultation has concluded, the order will be laid to parliament in the second half of 2023. Once laid, the House of Commons and House of Lords will debate the legislation before it passes into law. This will be subject to parliamentary time.
The GMC will begin its processes and preparations to draft rules covering how it will regulate PAs and AAs. That will include drafting, consultation, responding to feedback, training staff and implementation. The GMC aims to complete these within 12 months, allowing regulation of PAs and AAs to commence in the second half of 2024.
Responding to this news, the president of the FPA Kate Straughton and president of the RCP Sir Andrew Goddard said:
“We welcome the news from the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) setting out a timetable for the regulation of Physician Associates (PAs) and Anaesthesia Associates by the GMC.
“We have waited a long time for this. This timetable is a clear roadmap to the profession being recognised for what it contributes through regulation, gaining prescribing rights and fulfilling its potential. The commitment to consult on the draft order that will bring PAs into regulation by the end of 2022 is a welcome first step on the journey.
“Previous delays to the process so far have been disappointing for FPA members, so we support the decision to separate the legislative order that will bring PAs into regulation from the order that will change the GMC’s regulatory framework for doctors. We recognise this decision has been taken to mitigate any further delays to PA regulation.
“That the DHSC does not expect any additional delay to wider reforms to the GMC’s regulatory framework for doctors as a result of this separation is good news. We hope that a timetable will shortly be brought forward to clearly set out when doctors can expect to be regulated under the same, modernised regulatory model.
“Workforce is the barrier to bringing down waiting lists and providing care in the long-term. Regulation will bring official recognition of everything PAs already contribute, enable them to work at their fullest potential and reduce delays in treatment and care as they gain more autonomy in caring for patients. We look forward to working with the DHSC to deliver regulation of PAs and wider reform to the GMC.”