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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)

  • These physician associates will probable get 15 minutes atleast per appointment and get to play doctor .As to whether they will have the ability to make complex clinical decisions and have the breadth of knowledge to assimilate and manage the conditions we GPs do remains to be seen . However I am sure they will cover themselves very effectively by off loading all risk to themselves with 'GP informed' in the notes .

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  • recently did a locum with a practice in which junior staff given task to review letters and results. Pretty much all non-normal results i.e. more complicated results were passed on to GP. The interesting thing is that they were given more time to look through the letters than the GP who ended up with the harder stuff !

    so in effect funds are going to be diverted to staff who are not going to make a dent on our workload and instead increase are workload.

    secondly - we end up with the responsibility not the juniors as you will find out when the pharmacists pull out.

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  • It seems the comments made here concerning PAs (Physician Associates, not "physician's assistants") are overtly critical and evidently ill-informed. PAs are not replacements for general practitioners, they are an additional member of a healthcare team and will support existing and future general practitioners in primary care, as well as assuming roles in secondary and tertiary care, for which they will be trained, and safe and competent to practice. PA students have proven themselves academically, predominantly in an undergraduate program of healthcare or biomedical science, and will have worked, prior to commencing the PA program, in a healthcare role. PAs are trained to recognise the scope and limitations of their knowledge and abilities, and to know when to refer to other members of the healthcare team. Departments that already employ PAs, or are involved in their training, seem very satisfied and willing to continue their employment and/or training; their favourable reports have resulted in a greater number of areas wishing to utilise PAs as a very capable resource.

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  • Will Physician associates have to undergo a form a appraisal and revalidation of sufficient scrutiny ?

    Will they carry full clinical responsibility for all decisions they make ?

    Will they have sufficent medical indemnity cover - this will need to be robust if PA's are indeed going to be taking on clinical roles akin to GP'S as they will undoubtedly incur risk in managing the undifferentiated problems in general practice .

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  • Ladies and Gents.

    The message is loud and clear. The Govt do not want GPs anymore. Hence Pension raid, Daily Mail, New Contract, New deal, 7/7 access, Named GP, CQC, More CQC etc etc etc etc etc. Get out of the pension scheme if you are in your 30s.

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  • Physician Assistant = An assistant to a physician, who in this context is, presumably a GP). Can such a thing exist if there are no physicians.

    If so, can they not knock on my door and say...

    1. Could you just sign here for me?
    2. Could you take a look at this?
    3. What is that spike on this strip of paper called ECG?

    and would be great if I do not have to take responsibility for their actions.

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  • Sue him

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  • Anonymous | Other healthcare professional | 19 June 2015 5:44pm

    where is the evidence ?
    how are they utilized ?
    what work can they do ?
    how will it reduce workload?
    how cost-effective are they?
    who will train / supervise ?
    what about indemnity ?

    so many questions - few answers but let's do it for a laugh ?

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  • Don't waste your time arguing

    They never listen

    They carry on regardless

    Protect yourself, protect your future and career, GET OUT WHILE YOU CAN.

    The older boys are retiring. That should tell you all where you stand......

    make a choice and think for yourselves and don't expect anyone there to look after you.

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  • The End

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