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NHS offering £50k per year for US physician associates to practise in underdoctored areas

The NHS is recruiting 200 physician associates from the USA to GP practices and hospitals on an annual salary of £50,000 in a bid to immediately alleviate workforce issues in the hardest hit regions of England.

On Thursday, the new ‘National Physician Associate Expansion Programme’ began advertising vacancies across four English regions to experienced US physician associates (PA), including for 20 GP practices across North West London, practices in Leicester and for primary care positions in Sheffield Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust.

The positions will start immediately, and will continue for two years while the first cohorts of UK PAs are being trained.

It comes after health secretary Jeremy Hunt’s ‘new deal’ promised that the NHS would recruit 5,000 PAs, nurses and pharmacists to work in primary care by 2020.

Physician assistants are dependent practitioners who is able to undertake delegated medical work, supervised by a qualified GP, such as obtaining medical histories, conducting comprehensive physical exams, requesting and interpreting tests, diagnosing and treating illnesses and injuries, and advising on preventive health care.

Earlier this year Pulse found that NHS Leicester City CCG had spent £600,000 to bring over ten US trained physician associates to work the city’s general practices.

However, this wide-ranging programme - led by Hillingdon Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust and not connected to the Leicester scheme - will also introduce US-trained PAs to different regions of England.

The job application states candidates must have significant clinical experience as a PA and/or completion of a post-graduate residency or fellowship program, as well as valid US or UK registration and evidence of CPD.

The £50,000 salary is based on a 48-hour week, but the positions come with 33 days paid leave plus bank holidays, ‘generous protected non-clinical time’ for CPD and working with PA leadership programmes, and a financial contribution to relocation.

It will also reimburse membership costs for joining the Royal College of Physicians, and costs of registering with the voluntary commission for PAs in the UK.

North West London, Yorkshire, Humber and Newcastle, the East Midlands and North West England are all set to benefit from an influx of PAs, to support GPs and hospital doctors.

Pulse has already shown that the latter three areas have been among the worst hit by problems recruiting newly qualified doctors to GP training.

In the East Midlands more than 40% of places for this August’s intake of GP training were left unfilled, and the North East had almost half of its places vacant.

Dr Nick Jenkins, the programme director, said they hoped to have the first PAs in place by the end of the year, adding: ‘The whole raison d’etre of NPAEP is to do ourselves out of business. We’re not here for any long-term purpose. I’m an A&E consultant, and I can tell you the problem is now, we’re spending a lot of money on locums, we’ve got patients whoneed seeing, and I think PAs are part of the solution to many of the challenges we face.’

‘But you can’t train them overnight, so to help in the short-term we need to bring in experienced people from elsewhere.’

Dr Richard Vautrey, deputy chair of the GPC, has previously told Pulse that PAs weren’t a substitute for employing GPs, but added: ‘We do need to recognise there aren’t enough GPs or junior doctors wanting to be GPs so we do need to look for alternatives to meet the need. Physician associates, or assistants, aren’t GPs but they can certainly provide some support

PAs in America also have prescribing powers, which are currently not available to UK PAs.

However, Pulse has already revealed that the Department of Health is evaluating the introduction of powers in future.

Readers' comments (61)

  • This is just the beginning....very soon we will have PAs, paramedics, NPs, pharmacists doing most of the consultations. Government is aware that public will always want to see a Specialist and nothing much can be changed in hospitals. But GPs can be easily replaced by non doctors. All of that will come at a much cheaper price and with time patients will get used to consulting non doctors. It will also benefit the Government because GPs will have less bargaining power once cheap alternatives are available. Salaries are increasing in every part of the world but unfortunately for us here it is going down. I believe we all need to have alternate plans in place and keep our options open to move to countries like Aus/NZ/ CAN. I don't see conditions improving in near future. The way things are, in 5 years time our salaries here will be similar to what a doctor gets in India...a developing country!! Good luck

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  • Many full time partners here in Lewisham are earning £60 -£75 K so they may well want to swap their roles for the much easier and less risky life of a PA. Plus as an employee they won't have to pay locum insurance, cover each others' holidays, indemnity and so on. The people behind this have no idea of the actual reality for most GPs.

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  • So, with on costs we're looking at £13m on this?! Not sure that's good value.

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  • AT THESE SALARIES AND CONDITIONS, ALOT OF GPs WILL BE THINKING ABOUT BECOME PHYSICIAN ASSOCIATES. AFTER ALL THE EXPENSES AND COSTS THE DIFFERENCE IN SALARY BETWEEN THESE AND GPs WHO WORK MUCH LONGER HOURS AND THE LACK OF RESPONSIBILITY MEANS THE RATE OF PAY FOR "ASSOCIATES" COULD BE BETTER THAN THEIR BOSSES.

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  • Nurse practitioner - highest band 6 pay is £34k/annum, band 7 (not may nurse practitioners are on this scale) £40k/annum

    So PAs with no responsibility (in uK) and no accountable/regulatory body, no licensing needed and much less qualifications and experience needed to be nurse practitioner, will earn 25% more then band 7 nurse.

    No disrespect to american PAs but this is plain ridiculous.

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  • p.s. at above condition this job equates to £20/hr and 5.5 weeks of holiday with "generous" PDP time.

    I can't see any nurse practitioners/practice nurse wanting to do their current job if this comes into force. We'll have mass exodus of these profession soon.

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  • What people don't realise is that Amercians work very differently from us. Headache=ct scan before going any further. Chest pain = angio. Cough=ct scan. They practice defensive medicine which is largely investigatin based. When you go to a+E with anything, they tick every box on the blood form irrespective. They will have a shock when they realised they can't get an mri for every condition, their tick boxing of every blood form will get them a snotogram from the powers that be, and they won't have the training to make diagnosis and differentials like real doctors. Won't last long, a very expensive excercise for the DOH who are clutching at straws. I'm out. I'll stick to my all doctor practice with nurses and HCA's all doing jobs they are suitably trained for. I pay enough for my indemnity to even bother taking on more liablity. Thanks and good luck

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  • - 50 k for a dependent practitioner who is able to undertake delegated medical work, supervised by a qualified GP - that's too expensive, I am not sure even a junior hosp SHO gets that kind of salary !

    - also will the physician associates from the USA be formally examined / assessed by GMC or RCGP before joining GP practices, I dont think just having
    ' significant clinical experience as a PA and/or completion of a post-graduate residency or fellowship program in USA ' is sufficient criterion.

    - In USA I don't think having significant clinical experience or post graduate qualification from UK allows somebody to practice as a healthcare professional unless they sit and pass all their exams, USMLE etc.

    - '' It will also reimburse membership costs for joining the Royal College of Physicians '' if physician associates are working in GP practices, shouldn't they be registered with RCGP instead ?

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  • So a PA who trained for 2 years gets more pay than a band 7 nurse (40K region) from the UK: , Despite the fact that she probably is better qualified, regulated by the NMC and is fully aware of the functioning (or non functioning) of the NHS.

    Is a GP replacement by either a PA/Nurse practitioner a sensible option any way.

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  • Wow what a clever thing to do.Pay salaried GP 70-80000 £,get patients,admin,visits,meetings etc.PA only £ 50000-no admin,visits,under supervision of GP. Anything in doubt-forward to GP-increase their workload.
    I am though confused about medical indemnity so apologies for ignorance-could be from supervising GP.God help with antibiotics/QOF/targets. Can they be referred to GMC- of course not-the supervising GP will be.
    Of course quality of care-Excellent for people as per Mr Hunt and DOH.Congratulations to them

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