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GPs go forth

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)

  • This must be the world's most expensive sticking plaster.

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  • I don't think American PA's are likely to come to the third world, except for a prolonged holiday!

    The soln is easy, pay the market rate for doctors and they will come.

    For ideologically obsessed free marketeers the current regime forget all this very easily

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  • Let them come, let them see and they will go back in 2 months flat. I would if I could.

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  • Wow with those conditions no responsibility etc I will swap my partner status and work as a PA. If I had one they would be earning more than me relatively speaking. US PA Just want to deliver high standard hands on care. No tick box counting or rest of uk rubbish hoops we spend hours jumping over and through when they realise how awful bureaucratic the nhs is they will be off too like many of my GP friends plan to do in the next year.

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  • I agree. When salaried GPs are being offered 70-80k per year but play roulette and double jeopardy via the GMC and will be paid to supervise them, why not just work as a PA and get someone else to carry the can.

    I'm sick of the RCGP endorsing other professionals to come in and undermine our status, the aim being clearly to reduce the number of doctors in the NHS to a bargain basement service. There is no way I will ever supervise or oversee a nurse practitioner or a PA or their prescribing. If they want my opinion then the patient is booked in withy me for a full assessment, or not at all.

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  • Will they be required to undergo NHS Induction and Refresher for being foreigned trained and never familiar with the NHS? Are they going to be subjected to any assesment exams? Will they be paid £2,300/month during their induction period? Or is it only our GP colleagues from Australia and New Zealand that have to be subjected to these?

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  • This is not generous and I would be surprised if hundreds flock to uproot themselves.
    All BMA salaried doctors' contracts and nurse practitioner contracts are based on 37.5 hours a week ( although I know many doctors voluntarily do more)
    This offer equates to approximately £38 000 a year for a "standard" working week. Hardly massive!

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  • Govt is happy to give their yankee friends 50£k for a PA but they won't give me the 26k of MPIG they took off in one stroke which would have allowed me to have a full time GP - a real GP and not a half baked US import from Minnessota !

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  • This is the most ridiculous solution and ill thought solution ignoring your own market of doctors. The way to do this is to induct those trainees who are not able to pass GP assessment exams but have completed the clinical rotations and have experience of working locally and know the system. They should be allowed to work as PA.
    What is the assement exam for foreign PAs. they know nothing about NHS and would take double amount of time and energy and money to train them to suit the needs of primary care.
    RCGP should seriously think in a modern way rather than sticking to old fashioned way and utilize the local doctor s here who have good experience but not full GP training.

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  • most of these will end up in hospital clinics and wards - very few will wnat the stress of primary care

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