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'New deal': 1,000 new physicians associates by 2020

The health secretary has announced there will be 1,000 new physicians associates working in general practice by 2020 as part of the ‘new deal’ to alleviate the GP workforce crisis.

Delivering the speech in South London today, Jeremy Hunt also said community pharmacy would be given £7.5m through the £1bn announced in the chancellor’s Autumn Statement to help provide extended hours working in practices.

As Pulse has already reported, the new deal will include a £10m fund for struggling practices, which will provide advice and support for practices to stave off closure, as well as a number of measures already announced as part of NHS England’s ‘ten-point plan’ to increase the GP workforce.

The health secretary said that the profession was a ‘hamster wheel’ for GPs, and that the workload crisis had to be addressed, but he reiterated any investment would be in return for a move to a seven-day service.

As part of efforts to tackle workload, he announced there would be 1,000 new physician associate roles by 2020 - the first concrete target given by the Government for the new role.

Pulse has reported that one CCG has already started recruiting them from the US in a bid to address workforce issues.

However, the scheme has been criticised by some GPs, who warn that they are not a replacement for GPs, and will not have the same expertise.

But Mr Hunt said that the Government is looking to push on with plans to train more physician associates.

He said: ‘Innovation in the workforce skill mix will be vital to ensure GPs are supported in their work by other practitioners.

‘I have already announced pilots for new physicians associates, but today I can announce that those pilots plan to ensure 1,000 physicians’ associates will be available to work in general practice by September 2020.’

These will be part of the 5,000 extra practice staff, in addition to the pledge made in the Conservatives’ manifesto for 5,000 new GPs overall.

Mr Hunt said that these new practice staff will also include community pharmacists.

He spoke of a pilot in Brighton which was able to use pharmacists to help offer evening and weekend access, which gave pharmacists ‘equal access’ to GP records.

He said:  ‘I can today announce that £7.5m of the primary care infrastructure fund for this year will be used to support community pharmacists with training and appropriate tools.’

Alongside this, he announced a range of measures to tackle workforce, many of which were in the ten-point plan. They included:

  • NHS England releasing statistics on clinical staffing levels in each practice today;
  • A marketing campaign led by NHS England and the RCGP to attract medical graduates to the profession;
  • A returners scheme, which has already attracted 50 GPs back to English general practice;
  • A scheme to retain GPs nearing retirement age, which is being worked on with the BMA;
  • A pre-GP year, which he claimed had been a success in the West Midlands.

Related images

  • Jeremy Hunt - online

Readers' comments (54)

  • great idea - 7 day working - that will really encourage retention & recruitment


    is this the best they can do ?

    where is the evidence base for physicians assistants ?
    what happened to the practice based pharmacists Maureen Baker promised us all in March ???

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  • well I was waiting until today with baited breath !!
    But decided there now ... thats it -the end - last bow will give 3 month notice before weekend - gone at 41
    off to tell the other partners
    I had 25 more years to give - and am simply unable to cope anymore - had held out just in case something changed . decision made - GOING ASAP

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  • I booked my medical exam for Australinan visa last week. I don't think I will be asking for refund.
    What an idiot you are JH you call this a new deal !!
    I truely feel sorry for my colleagues who stuck with this idiot as a health secretary.

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  • PA and NP are great for other people, but when I'm ill I will see a doctor thank you.

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  • 1. Not New Deal - its a Raw Deal.

    2. Please lets all call Physician Assistants as Health Secretaries

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  • Dear Mr Hunt,,

    Thank you for letting me know the details of the New Deal. I am half-way through the process of emigrating to Australia and your latest news has made me feel even more confident of my plans to go abroad. I was always under the (false) impression that something dramatic and good is going to happen to General Practice in the UK during this Government's tenure and that I should wait a bit longer before deciding on going abroad, but now I am very grateful that your New Deal is not going to make me feel guilty about anything any more.

    Thank you, Thank you, Thank you

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  • No new money without 7 day working?
    That's no new money then.

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  • Jeremy has said that a deal is a deal and needs both sides to co-operate and keep their end of the bargain. Fairs fair - I will co-operate and undertake 7 day working as part of a rota if and when you have recruited an EXTRA 5000 FTE GP's. I reckon my weekends are safe for a while. *(when I say safe - I mean they will still be there to catch up on the paperwork (QOF CQC Admissions avoidance etc etc) I haven't had time to do during the week)

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  • Are you taking the Pi&& ?
    7 day working- we cannot cover 5 days effectively
    Recruitment drive- what a laugh-new people tempted in when they look at what current GPs are doing- early retirements, changing careers, going overseas, private practice- look at the options- stay in GP is not one of them, 5000 new GPs- we be lucky to have 5000s GP at all.
    GPs need to take action, BMA, GMC, RCGP all useless. Striking will not work, but we should be opting out of all additional work, extras/ urgents- send to nearest ED, OOH, unfunded work- return to sender!
    Refuse all part 1 and 2 death certs?
    Seriously we cannot sit by and do nothing, the profession is falling apart.
    7 day so-op will soon be 7 day each practice,
    Collectively we need to take action / opt out- it is the only way to have a voice for us grass route GPs, actually seeing the patients and doing the work to have a voice.

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  • the public needs to know tha\t there is a need to check on the credentials of those they are referred to from now on. My family won't be seeing a trainee unless accompanied by a qualifies medic - not on a mon/tues/wed/thurs/fri/sat or sunday

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