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A faulty production line

Only six US physician associates recruited for practices despite £50k salary offer

Exclusive A scheme intended to recruit 200 experienced physician associates to the NHS from the US through offering a salary of £50,000 and generous benefits is unlikely to meet its target, its leaders have admitted.

The London trust leading the recruitment drive has said that the national target to recruit 200 physician associates (PAs) across primary and secondary care for the two-year role - which will see them taking on tasks such as conducting comprehensive physical exams and diagnosing and treating some illnesses and injuries - has only recruited 35 individuals, including only six in general practice.  

GPs said the scheme was ‘gimmicky’, and this scheme has shown the Government has no ‘real commitment to proper workforce development’.

The announcement comes after a drive to increase the presence of PAs in general practice, with Jeremy Hunt’s ‘new deal’ pledge of 1,000 PAs to work alongside GPs by 2020, and plans to expand the non-medical workforce in the 10 point plan for GP recruitment.

In August, Pulse revealed the scheme - called the National Physician Associate Expansion Programme (NPAEP) - had begun advertising for experienced candidates from America to work in the NHS, offering salaries of £50,000 a year, 33 days paid leave and a financial contribution for relocation.

Pulse has learnt from Hillingdon Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust that 184 applications had been received by early November, with a handful of offers made after shortlisting and interviews.

A spokesperson clarified that to date (14 January), 35 provisional offers had been made with six candidates identified for work in general practice they added that the application stage had only recently closed, and selection was ongoing but it was not certain how many candidates would accept the offered position. 

They told Pulse: ’The NPAEP positions were advertised between 24 August 2015 to 7 January 2016 and the selection process for candidates is ongoing.

’To date, the programme has made 35 provisional offers. We do not know at this stage how many of these offers will be taken up. Six candidates are provisionally identified for GP/Primary care positions.’

A full update will be available in March, but the board papers conclude: ‘Progress will be reviewed with the Programme Board in January 2015. It is likely that NPAEP will continue to run, with smaller numbers than originally envisaged.’

BMA Council member and London GP, Dr Louise Irvine told Pulse: ’I don’t see what a physician associate can do that a good practice nurse or nurse practitioner couldn’t do. I think this is gimmicky.

She added: ‘I don’t think the Government’s shown any real commitment to proper workforce development, whether it be nurses, doctors or other health professionals..’

’It seems like a lot of money to be spending on people, for whom the role is very indeterminate.’

Physician associates are dependent practitioners are 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.

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 National Physician Associate Expansion Programme

NPAEP director Dr Nick Jenkins

NPAEP director Dr Nick Jenkins

Source: Dr Nick Jenkins

NPAEP director Dr Nick Jenkins

The original advert aimed to recruit PAs across four regions: North West London; the East Midlands; Yorkshire, the Humber and Newcastle; and North West England.

This included general practice roles in Leicester – where the CCG has already invested £600,000 in recruiting ten PAs from America to work in general practice – as well as in GP practices in Sheffield and across seven London GP practices.

The expansion programme will run until the end of 2017 and NPAEP director Dr Nick Jenkins said he hoped it would show the benefits PAs can bring, and create roles for the first cohort of physician associates trained in newly expanded UK university postgraduate courses.

But with such small numbers opting to take the plunge and forge a place for the profession in the NHS, it’s unclear what roles will await UK PA graduates when they compelte their postgraduate training.

Readers' comments (38)

  • Is that the Cavalry coming? No, just a man with two halves of a coconut shell. FFS.

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  • hahahahahahhaaaaaahahahaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa.....
    ha..cough, ha, hee hee

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  • Nhsfatcat

    Just watch the government throw even more money at this so that their pet project doesn't fail; instead of investing in proper general practice that is so unloved that 10 million people can't see their useless overpaid underworked GP.

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  • This comment has been moderated

  • We might be cheap as per workload but we are massively inefficient. All those unnecessary follow up appointment, the so called just-in-casers, the DNAs, the Med3s, the GANFYDs, the incidetalomas ....the burnt out partners that surround themselves with trivia to get a rest...and the list continues.

    Hunt is spot on when it comes to wanting to demolish the NHS but I am not sure privatizing it is the way forward. Maybe if we stopped GPs from getting involved in non-medical matters....big egos do not recognize limitations.

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  • Mr. Hunt don't you have any cell in your body which has a bit of dignity, it is to go.

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  • Peter Swinyard

    I would be very concerned about taking on a "dependent practitioner" at £50,000pa when fully trained doctors are earning less. This, I assume, means that they cannot prescribe - also who carries the can for liability insurance? Would you sign prescriptions presented to you by a PA? If so, shows some considerable level of trust. But who gets sued if there is an error? Yes, right first time. You.

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  • Sorry if I am being thick but I don't really know what being a doctor means anymore. Who/what legislation defines who does what? It seems like a free for all.
    I don't undesrstand what privilages 5 years at medical and 15 years of ongoing professional development bring. Someone please explain.

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  • Rather disgruntled-sounding locum posting above. I don't recognise the description, I am happy to say, but then I work in a slightly under-doctored small practice in which we look out for each other. Better perhaps to judge general oractice as a whole and as it should be than assume everywhere is the same.

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  • 11.03 referring to 10.19

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  • 10.58 am
    There are no priviledges!!! None, zilch, wise up.

    It is offensive and ridiculous-the same kind of people who tell Soldiers back from Afghanistan that he/she is privilaged even though they have suffered horrific injuries and have a permanent life changing disability.

    It is about the government and regulators trying to brainwash us into crappy working conditions, come on work it out.
    I bet that slaves in the 17th century were told they should be grateful for getting beaten and worked all day and night.

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  • @Anonymous | GP Partner19 Jan 2016 11:03am

    'Rather disgruntled-sounding locum posting above. I don't recognise the description,'

    I am not in the least disgruntled. I am actually a happy locum that sees all kinds of practices day in and day out. When I was a partner I used to think of locums as losers, how wrong was I!. Partners are suffering from a kind of Stockholm Syndrome so you will not ,or cannot, understand where Im coming from. Hope you break free soon.

    A happy GP

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  • True you are smart. You got into a partnership during the golden years whilst those "loser" locums worked for you. Now you're a locum as the tables have turned. It's the partners' of the day fault for the mess we're in. They were oh so greedy.

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  • Only 994 more physician assitiants to go to reach target!Oh sorry I just laughed so hard I wet myself.

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  • Two years qualified mate. Not from the golden era at all. Just saw the light.

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  • I applied for one of these posts and didn't even get an interview. 10 years of full-time GP partnership wasn't enough experience, apparently. One of the partners who employs me as a locum is currently taking home £4K gross for 10+ sessions. Perhaps they assumed my application wasn't for real ;-)

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  • Doctors be alert, you are about to be edged out of your rigorously and painstakingly earned positions by gradual substitution strategy.

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  • 11.24
    I just wrote that you sounded disgruntled - perhaps disparaging, then? I was merely trying to point out that your experience of general practice is not everyone's. I have never considered locums to be losers and while it's not a way of practising that appeals to me, I am happy that some doctors prefer it as both are needed.

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  • I bet some overworked junior doctors would love this pay package , with less training,regulation and responsibility! Amazing there is loads of wonga for this iniative but none for unsocial hours

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  • To be frank I'm surprised anyone wanted to work in UK at all

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