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GP federation hopes to ease workforce woes with US physician associates

NHS leaders in Suffolk are planning to bring across a dozen physician associates from the US in a bid to reduce pressure on local GPs.

NHS Ipswich and East Suffolk CCG and NHS West Suffolk CCG are hoping to have 12 PAs in place by 2022.

They will be permanent roles and hired into NHS pay band 7 (£31,696 - £41,787), working with practices in the Suffolk GP Federation.

Although not medically qualified doctors and not yet regulated, PAs can assist with tasks such as taking a patient’s history, performing a physical examination and analysing test results. They still have to work under the supervision of a GP, who remains the responsible clinician.

Amanda Lyes, chief corporate services officer for NHS Ipswich and East Suffolk CCG and NHS West Suffolk CCG, said the move comes as ’locally and nationally there is an ongoing issue with the recruitment of GPs’.

She added: 'To address these challenges, we need to be creative in how we recruit and how the roles can be delivered differently, while maintaining a high standard of primary care…

'Suffolk is a fantastic place to live and work and we’re working with NHS England, Suffolk GP Federation and Health Education England in supporting programmes that will recruit and retain health professionals across the area.'

Suffolk GP Federation medical director and chair Dr Paul Driscoll said: 'GP practices in Suffolk are working under severe pressure and this is often linked to difficulties surrounding the recruitment of health professionals.'

He said this was linked to the national GP shortage and more senior partners seeking early retirement.

He added: 'Here in Suffolk we have committed and caring clinicians who are willing to embrace change and we should be positive about what we can achieve...

'We are working hard in partnership with the two CCGs and other healthcare colleagues to address the challenges faced by the county in the most effective way, whilst ensuring patients can continue to use their local GP practices and receive high quality care.'

Dr Driscoll said the federation was also exploring other measures to ease recruitment woes including making better use of the skills of nurses and the potential of hiring pharmacists, physiotherapists and paramedics to help GPs.

He also said they were looking at offering new GPs 'flexible working, portfolio careers and the ability to move around', as this is what it has found younger doctors want.

He said: 'These can be hard to provide in small traditional practices but working in groups, federations or single partnerships are much more achievable.

It comes as Pulse reported last year that a two-year scheme offering £50,000 a year to work in England attracted only six PAs from the US.

Meanwhile, NHS Leicester City CCG launched a £600,000 programme to bring over US PAs in 2015 and many UK universities have also launched their own PA programmes.

In all, health secretary Jeremy Hunt’s commitment to recruit 1,000 physician associates to work in general practice is set to cost more than £15m.

Readers' comments (7)

  • They won't give an uplift to existing struggling GPs to improve services and patient uptake but are happy to shell 600k on PAs. You couldn't expect good sense - it's just the some more crispy ccg nuts.

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  • I think its a good move.we should try to get as many PAs will ease pressure of GPs.

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  • Are the people behind this aware of the results from an identical scheme to import USA trained PAs to Brum over ten years ago?

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  • National Hopeless Service

    Stelvio tell us more......

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  • USA trained pa's. Accountable care organisations.
    All going to plan to push on with kaiser permamente nhs. Dont think this has just been a tory directive. When labour were in power kaiser systems were being strongly advocated by DOH.

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  • and who pays the indemnity,
    and can they actually recruit them
    and what is the onward referral rate
    and how many do they see an hour

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  • I have had past personal experience of a "noctor". Poor record keeping, misdiagnosis, missed QoF opportunities, low productivity, referrals to me : I can go on. Take my advice, if you are short of a permanent doctor, get yourself a locum or see more patients yourself. They end up seeing trivia that does not need to be seen by anyone.

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