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Physician associate legislation waiting for ‘parliamentary slot’, says Jeremy Hunt

The Department of Health is committed to bringing in regulation for new clinician staff grades aimed to reduce pressure on GP workload, the health secretary has said.

The House of Lords committee on NHS sustainability said the GMC had submitted evidence suggesting the lack of a regulatory framework was delaying the implementation of these roles in the NHS.

The Faculty of Physician Associates (FPA) has said that ‘political instability’, including the UK leaving the EU and the fallout from the  junior doctors strikes, were factors behind ‘slow progress’ towards regulation of new staff grades.

But Mr Hunt said the only thing holding things up was MPs finding the time to make the legislation.

He told the Lords committee last week: ’We have committed to introducing legislation for regulatory reform. It is a question of finding a parliamentary slot.’

But he said there was also ’lots of things you can do without changing regulation’ and ‘we should be getting on and doing those’.

The health secretary said earlier this month that consultations on regulating physician associates would start next year.

Currently physician associates can join a voluntary register, operated by the Royal College of Physicians.

In the same House of Lords evidence session, Mr Hunt said that ‘some of the most forward-thinking American healthcare organisations’ have been able to achieve ‘the the elimination of GP burnout’ by introducing physician assistants.