A revolt by senior doctors is set to halt NHS plans to recruit junior staff to fill NHS workforce gaps.
Doctors today said the health service is increasingly turning to physician associates (PAs) because their training is much quicker and cheaper.
They warned that patients often do not know that they are being cared for by such staff and not by a qualified doctor.
Associates do not go to medical school, but instead complete two years of post-graduate training in addition to a degree in a subject such as biomedical sciences.
But the Government wants to increase its role in the National Health Service.
Doctors said today that the health service is increasingly turning to junior doctors because their training is much quicker and cheaper. They warned that patients are often unaware that they are being cared for by such staff, rather than by a qualified doctor.
The plan published in June pledged to increase the permanent NHS workforce by almost one million by 2036/2037. It is expected to see an increase from 1.4 million to between 2.2 and 2.3 million. Under the NHS staffing plan published in June, ministers also plan to increase the number of PAs almost fourfold to 12,000 by 2036/37. The plan also suggests that PAs could be allowed to prescribe in the future.
Under the NHS staffing plan published in June, ministers plan to increase their numbers almost fourfold to 12,000 by 2036/37.
The plan also suggests that PAs could be allowed to prescribe in the future.
First introduced in 2003, the role currently allows associate physicians to take medical histories, perform physical examinations, and analyze test results, but must always work under supervision.
They are not allowed to prescribe medications or refer patients for procedures.
Established by the Royal College of Physicians, the college also says that PAs are intended to work “alongside” doctors and provide “medical care.”
However, concerns have increased in recent weeks about the scope of their role, confusion among the public about their level of expertise and a lack of regulation.
Senior anesthetists, under the ‘Anaesthetics United’ group, have also raised the alarm about its increasing use and called a general meeting of the Royal College of Anesthetists, in an attempt to oppose the associate anesthetists plans.
Associates may administer anesthesia under the supervision of a consultant, who may supervise two associates in separate operating rooms at the same time.
This, in theory, allows for more operations to be performed than if the consultant were working directly on a single patient.
Dr. Richard Marks, a semi-retired London anesthetist, said The times: ‘Anesthesia associates are non-physicians who have completed a two-year course enabling them to administer anesthetics.
“In theory, under supervision and within a narrow scope of practice, but anecdotally, both conditions do not apply in the real world.”
Consultant anesthetists typically receive nine years of on-the-job training after earning their medical degree.
Dr Marks, who has been regional director of training and vice-president of the Royal College of Anesthetists, also said arguments that associates were necessary, given the national shortage of anaesthetists, “do not stand up to close scrutiny”.
During a meeting scheduled for Oct. 17, the group put forward motions that include directing the university council to ask clinical directors to suspend recruiting associates.
The group is also pushing for patients to be clearly told when an associate will provide care.
The Times reported that similar efforts are in an early stage in other medical specialties, where physician associates are used more frequently.
For several years, the Government and the General Medical Council, which oversees doctors’ standards, have discussed plans for associates to be regulated by the GMC.
But the watchdog says this will not happen until “the second half of 2024 at the earliest”.
The calls also come after the death of actress Emily Chesterton, who was just 30 years old.
In July it was revealed that the same personal assistant had seen her twice and detected no symptoms of blood clotting and instead said the 30-year-old actress had anxiety and long Covid.
Her parents said that at no time during the appointment at the GP’s office was Ms Chesterton informed that the person who had diagnosed her was not a fully qualified GP.
His health deteriorated on the night of their second date before his family called an ambulance, but he went into cardiac arrest on the way to hospital last November.
Under the NHS long-term workforce plan, the number of training places in medical schools will double by 2031/32, bringing the total number of places to 15,000. GP training places in England for junior doctors will also increase by 50 per cent to 6,000. Pharmacist training will also increase by almost 50 percent to around 5,000 places by 2031/32. Meanwhile, training in clinical psychology and child and adolescent psychotherapy will also be expanded, with places increasing by more than a quarter to 1,300 in 2031.
The calls also come after the death of actress Emily Chesterton (pictured), who was just 30 years old. In July it was revealed that she had been seen twice by the same personal assistant who detected no symptoms of blood clotting and instead she said the 30-year-old actress had anxiety and long Covid. Her parents said that at no time during the appointment at the GP’s office was Ms Chesterton informed that the person who had diagnosed her was not a fully qualified GP.
A coroner concluded that his life could have been saved if he had gone to A&E and suffered a pulmonary embolism.
The GP surgery where Ms Chesterton was treated, the Vale practice in Crouch End, north London, has stopped employing personal assistants.
At the time, members of the doctors’ union, the British Medical Association (BMA), called for the role to be renamed “physician assistant” and for more efforts to be made to ensure that associate doctors were not confused with doctors. doctors.
That same month a motion was passed at the annual meeting of BMA representatives in Liverpool calling for the associate doctor to be renamed as a medical assistant, and that those in that role should never be called “doctor” in medical settings.
He also called for PAs to register through the Health Professions Council rather than the GMC, and said they must “take personal responsibility for their professional actions”.
Health Minister Will Quince said he would look into the suggestion to change the name and that, regardless of the title, “we need to make sure they present themselves appropriately and make this very clear to patients.”
Dr Fiona Donald, president of the Royal College, which is surveying its members, said: “We look forward to the results of our member survey… There are enormous pressures on anesthesia services across the country due to shortages of anesthetists and an unprecedented demand for our services and the lack of training positions for doctors specializing in anesthesia.’
Meanwhile, an NHS spokeswoman said: “Associate anesthetists are highly trained professionals who work under the supervision of a consultant… and help free up doctors so they can spend more time with patients.”