BMA urges MPs to vote against “dangerous” regulation of physician associates by GMC

by BMA media team

Press release from the BMA

Location: UK
Published: Thursday 18 January 2024

As Parliament prepares to approve the regulation of physician associates (PAs) by the General Medical Council (GMC), the BMA today took out newspaper advertisements urging MPs to object to the Government’s plans. 

The new legislation, which will lay the legal groundwork to regulate the medical associate professions by the GMC - until now the body reserved for the regulation of doctors - will be considered in Parliament soon. If approved, it threatens to blur the lines between medically qualified doctors and other professionals who are not doctors and have fewer years of training and experience, leading to patient confusion and potentially threatening their safety. 

The advert warns MPs not to use the GMC to “blur the lines” between the two professions, adding that “in medicine, confusion can be fatal”.  

“PAs are not the same as doctors, and blurring the lines can have tragic consequences for patients who think they have seen a doctor when they have not”, it continues. 

Prof Phil Banfield, chair of council of the British Medical Association, said: 

“Doctors have been raising their voices in protest at this potentially dangerous move for a long time. The BMA has heard 87% of its members report in a survey that the way PAs are currently used in the NHS is a danger to patient safety. Given how understaffed and intensely pressurised the clinical environment can be, it is not always possible to offer the support and supervision that PAs need to practice safely, which is not right for the PAs as well as patients. Last year saw stories in the media showing the grave consequences to patient safety when members of the public think they have seen a doctor when they haven’t. 

“Now MPs have the chance to listen and act on doctors’ very clear warnings. They don’t have to wave through the Government’s ill-thought through plans, plans that have taken shape largely outside of the public’s knowledge or control. If they lodge their opposition today and commit to a GMC that remains the sole regulator of doctors, we can retain the confidence of patients that they are being seen by fully qualified medical professionals, and that when they need a doctor that is who they will be seeing.  

“Changing the nature of the medical profession by diluting it rather than boosting it with a strengthened workforce with better recruitment and retention of doctors, and doing so against the best advice of nearly the entire profession itself, is a terrible failure of government. MPs must halt that failure today for the good of the patients they represent.”  

Ends

Notes to editors

The adverts are running in the Guardian and on social media.

The BMA’s position on PAs and AAs can be found here https://www.bma.org.uk/news-and-opinion/bma-position-statement-on-physician-associates-and-anaesthesia-associates  

The BMA is a professional association and trade union representing and negotiating on behalf of all doctors in the UK. A leading voice advocating for outstanding health care and a healthy population. An association providing members with excellent individual services and support throughout their lives.For media enquiries please email [email protected] or call 020 7383 6448