Physician associates are clinical graduates trained in the medical model. They must pass an intensive 2 year university course at diploma or masters level to learn clinical knowledge and skills after completing a 3 year biomedical or healthcare related degree. They train in both the acute sector and primary care to gain a rounded patient centred clinical experience.
The competencies physician associates bring mean they make excellent members of multi-disciplinary teams and one of the unique benefits PAs bring include providing continuity of care. Following the announcement of the General Medical Council (GMC) to regulate physician associates, the ministerial statement outlines the next part of the consultation process to regulate the role under statute.
Role in mental health
The NHS has made a commitment to increase the number of PAs in mental health services over the next five years. The Royal College of Psychiatrists has also endorsed the role and are fully supportive of Physician Associates working in mental health, and the role has been very positively received by mental health medical consultants supervising them. The group has an aspiration to see a growth of 10% of PAs deployed into mental health services, as such a variety of resources will be developed to support and encourage services to introduce PAs. This includes increasing awareness and understanding of the role, and developing training and support to help PAs work in mental health.
PAs already working in mental health settings can carry caseloads under supervision, carry out full psychiatric and risk assessments, and liaise with other services, as well as:
preparing reports and discharge summaries
undertake basic psycho-therapeutic interventions
perform Service Quality Improvement and audit activities
deliver education to service users and other staff
assisting the managing consultant by writing letters, chasing referrals/treatments, and preparing medical notes
physical assessments and procedures.
An implementation toolkit support organisations in embedding this role and encourages widespread adoption. The toolkit has been designed to serve as a resource for medical directors, psychiatrists, Trusts and for others to enhance awareness of the role. The toolkit provides a wealth of information on recruitment (incl. job descriptions), but also suggests ways in which PAs can be appropriately trained within their first year to ensure that they are using and developing all their skills to work to a high level within the multidisciplinary team.
Benefits to patients
Health Education England and The Royal College of Psychiatrists believe that PAs play a valuable role in helping increase the capacity of psychiatrists to help them work to the top of their skill set, and make a positive difference by enhancing access to patient care. Take a look at the video below.
- Health Careers
- NHS Employers
- Royal College of Psychiatrists
- Employing physician associates in mental health
- Faculty of physician associates