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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)

  • Good luck to all the GP's who end up supervising these physician assistants . Also who is going to indemnify them ? The salary seems better than that offerred to a final year GP registrar .So they will get the chance to play GP knowing that they can easily deflect any responsibility on to the hapless partner who is supervising them .

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  • This is for a 48 HOUR WEEK.
    Registrars, salaried doctors and nurse practitioners are not contracted for 48 hours.
    My worry is that the government are heading in this direction.

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  • Sorry to be blunt about it, but it seems my slacker mates from school who are allied health professionals (who have enjoyed every minute of slacking) are rising up the ranks to a better position than me. Doh!

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  • You need 10 year of training, lot of hard work/ difficult exams to start working as a GP. Whereas 2 yr of training and you are a PA.... salary of 50K. Go for it guys , why do you want to go through all the hassle and hard work. The way things are Government is not going to invest in getting more GPs, so we will have to look for cheap options. Sadly, even the Asian doctors are not going to rescue General practice this time...as I don't see them coming to sort out recruitment crisis. Salaries are much better in India then they were 10-20 years ago. Middle East/Australia/ Newzealand are offering much better packages and unfortunately we are no more a pulling force in the global world!!

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  • As soon as they realise they cannot get MRI scans done tomorrow for every twinge and GPs decline the antibiotics they thought every patient needs they will be off

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  • Surely we just all have to say no, not a chance?

    I would sooner take on another FY2 - better qualified, proper clinical training and experience.

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  • Took Early Retirement

    I think at that salary there will be very few GOOD PAs who will want to up sticks from the USA, come to our high-tax, high-regulation country, leave somewhere like Florida for the privilege of working in Hull or Leicester. (Actually, I know Leicester a bit and as some cities go, it isn't at all bad.)

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  • i think less patients will go to A&E.
    more will go to PAs
    GPs will be left twiddling their thumbs.

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  • I am a gp partner.. How can I convert to work as a PA please . I can work 2/3 my current hours . I can increase my leave from the current 2 weeks if lucky as we cannot recruit to 6 wks. Even get CME ! No responsibility , sick pay ..... I don't even have to think too hard as can pass on everything that isn't simple. And I only have to drop £20K after tax NI works out 10K.
    I get paid to move even.

    Sounds a brilliant job Or will they turn me down as I don't have a PA certificate if I apply or even for being overqualified !

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  • Here they come again, confused NHS minders. Let us see how long the Americans will last. Welcome to NHS.

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