The appearance of PAs in UK healthcare reflects a trend towards the development of multi-disciplinary teams as well as the need to ensure that there is sufficient workforce to meet demand in the NHS.
“The NHS is treating record numbers of people. That’s why we are growing the workforce further with a new class of medic so busy doctors have more time to care for patients.”
Secretary of State, Jeremy Hunt, 2014
PAs are seen by the UK government as one of the ways in which workforce pressures in the NHS can be alleviated. In June 2015, the Secretary of State for Health, Jeremy Hunt, announced that 1,000 PAs would be introduced into general practice in England to assist in tackling GP workload pressures.
This commitment was included in the GP workforce 10 point plan partnership, between NHS England, HEE, the BMA and the Royal College of GPs, and has carried over into NHS England and Health Education England’s GP Forward View.
“We know that many practices now face recruitment issues and are increasingly reliant on temporary staff…We aim to double the rate of growth in the primary care medical workforce over the next five years, to create an extra 5,000 doctors working in general practice. This needs to be supported by growth in the non-medical workforce – a minimum of 5,000 extra staff – nurses, pharmacists, physician associates, mental health workers and others”.
General Practice Forward View, 2016
The devolved governments have also identified PAs as a potential way to address workforce and workload pressures.
“Ensuring a sustainable workforce…means further investment in a mixed economy workforce, and crucially, it means transforming roles so they are of more direct benefit to Scotland’s NHS patients in different healthcare settings… and physician associates are a recent and welcome addition to multidisciplinary clinical teams”.
National Clinical Strategy for Scotland, 2016
“Our goal is to meet the rising demand for healthcare by making the most of the skills our dedicated primary care workforce already have and supporting them in their continued desire to innovate and improve the services they provide every day…measures include…working with health boards and universities to develop an education and training programme for physicians associates in Wales”.
Health and Social Services Minister for Wales, Mark Drakeford, 2015