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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)

  • NHS will keep having recruitment problem until the fundamental problem is addressed. Sticking expensive plaster over an infected wound does not heal the wound, does it?

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  • I have worked as a primary care physician in an integrated staff model HMO for many years.
    The American PAs I have worked with are excellent, know primary care inside and out, get excellent benefits (way more than 10 holidays a year, as one poster here stated), and make way more than what is being offered by NHS.
    However, even though I have long been an assiduous reader of Pulse, I didn't realize until now (from physician comments herein) how little primary docs make in the NHS. Surely your training, skill, life are worth more than this.
    Life is too short to be an indentured servant.

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  • Ronal Reagan and the ATC strike comes to mind ..Seriously can anyone else see this or atleast have the courage to say this

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  • I have just completed a 4 year GP training. I do not hold a CCT due to marginal CSA exam failure. Apparently there are at least dozens if not hundreds of trainees in my position who would happily take up non GP jobs similar to the one described in this article and work in the very field that they have already been trained. I wonder why recruiting overseas doctors is considered a better solution compare to using the readily available trained local workforce....

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  • @above I feel for you mate
    Only a few short years ago you would have got through summative assessment and been free to work.

    My advice is to leave the UK if you can an maybe get a residency in the states or something. Alternatively you could probably easily get a decent staff grade job in hospitals and coin it. That's if you want to stay in their and experience the garbage that is the NHS in the country formerly know as Great Britain. Anyone can see now just how bad things are there and that a once great country has now gone to the dogs

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  • Took Early Retirement

    Yes, SA was fine. I suppose it was scrapped to help the RCGP monopoly?

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  • At present the regulation of physician associates is done through a voluntary register. This register does not have the force of the law, meaning that physician associates can see patients even if they are not registered. This poses an unacceptable risk to patient safety in GP surgeries.

    I have therefore set up a petition to call for a proper mandatory registration process for physician associates and I encourage all who are interested in patient safety to sign it.

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  • average salaried post 72k a year (pro-rata).

    actual hours worked >> 40 hrs a week

    after defense fees, GMC (rip off artists), RCGP (even bigger rip off artists) and pensions = less than £50k

    yet full responsibility with multiple jeopardy !

    the way is clear - why bother being a GP?

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  • The salery seems aproproate for a graduate with further training. It's the rest of us who are underpaid.

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  • So instead of spending the last 4 years at medical school (tuition fees £36k), I could've spent 2 years at Hull Polytechnic and be on £50k for 2 years already? Actually have money left over for a deposit? Refer every patient to the doctor for a script or just write "discussed with GP" in the notes, not taking any responsibility at all. And paid study leave, relocation expenses, copious annual leave. And there'll no doubt be lots of bull**** conferences to attend where they present "evidence" to each other about how great their "outcomes" are and how they add something special or different because they think outside the "medical" box and Kolb cycles and multi professional teams and blah blah blah

    -- 4th year graduate student

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