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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)

  • Only a fool would have taken these jobs. Paid less, live in overcrowded streets, nowhere to park your car, your children bullied in dreadful schools(it's ok to racially abuse Americans), having to leave for work at 6am to avoid traffic leaving work at 7pm.
    I feel sorry for the 6 who have taken the jobs. They think they're getting Harry Potter and Tintern Abbey. The reality is they'll wake up in the nightmare that is the UK and UKGP.

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  • well done .. we are getting there.

    add this to the '1000' figure of GPs who will stay on and delay retirement and GP trainees it means we are well on the way to reaching the promised 5000 'GPs' that the conservatives have pledged. i'm impressed 1006 already and it's only the start of 2016 !

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  • Good it was a stupid idea anyway we already have people in GP practice's doing the majority of the work Physician's Associates would do they are called Practice nurses and they don't get paid anything like £50,000 and a lot of them are Independent prescribers which the overpaid Physician's assistants aren't.

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  • What are you all afraid of? Intelligent, qualified people afraid of other intelligent qualified people coming to help!
    I see nurses disgruntled and doctors disgruntled by this new role.

    Nothing will ever take away from doctors, their seniority and position. You are losing nothing and yet have so much to gain by another health professional there to ease the burden - why resist?
    I honestly cannot see why so many of you continuously negate the PA development, I am a student pa.

    We have been told in no uncertain terms that we are not replacing doctors, we are there to support them in their roles and perform under the medical model in ways that nurses can't / don't.
    There is room for this new profession, you just need to be open minded. I am studying with some extremely intelligent people, not everyone wanted to be a doctor when they picked their career and to choose to do medicine later in life would be an awfully big ask financially and time wise.
    Those studying pa studies are no less intelligent than those who've studied medicine, their life just took a different route and whilst we are aware we won't be doctors many of us will get the patient contact we desire along with knowing that we are doing something worthwhile.

    Surely that's why so many of you joined medicine / healthcare? To improve other people's lives, to care for people and to make them better be it through medicine, nursing or care?

    I think you have all lost sight of the focus here that is to provide excellent patient care. It doesn't matter what the PA earns etc, it's what they can bring to the table and I think you'll be pleasantly surprised if you actually give them a chance.

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  • Oh dear - yet another government 'initiatve' goes 't**'s up' why not employ those that are manning nhs111- or is it nhs666? - some clever advisor has ensured they are another poorly conceived and sometimes frankly dangero
    us setup (no fault of those employed largely who might as well be a computer asking the endless questions) at least NHS direct had some clinical input and no doubt didn't send so many ambulances to a/e. They could take histories and pass onto clinicians to make the final decisions with all those sore throats, ' glands up' 'supposed uti' s', coughs and colds that ought to be dealt with by pharmacies so they almost never see a go who has enough more significant clinical issues to deal with - I'm sure 25000£ - 30000£ would be enough (plus crown immunity)

    Why aren't there true thinkers involved - just those who do 8.30 till 4pm who have no vested interest and not expected to work weekends - probably laid off like all those with experience in the former pct's what a stupid idea that was- ccgs often have no idea - not their fault - in a politically motivated idiotic sudden change by those with no appreciation of the expertise, knowledge and dedication that was there. No wonder the same incompetence presided over the carriers and aircraft, deals over nuclear ( green energy goodbye) no investigation into banking malpractice, laughable tax from multinationals..... Is there is a God where has she gone??

    Love to all and apologies to Christians if 'she' upset you!

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  • Why are we getting an unregistered physician associate that cannot prescribe or take cervical cytology (because they are unregistered) to work in General Practice when we have Practice Nurses that would be willing to train as Advanced Nurse Practitioners if they were funded and supported to do so (and they would be able to prescribe and take cervical cytology!) And I'm sure be paid less then £50k a year without the fair pay and conditions that Agenda for Change comes with.

    Practice Nusre and Primary Care Development Nurse

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  • They get £150 k in Iowa and can't manage like GPs

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  • 😄😅😆😆 - just checking if emojis work in comments!

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