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Professor Vari Drennan leads study on role of physician associates in patient care in the NHS

physician-associates-smallResearchers from the Faculty of Health, Social Care and Education will investigate whether physician associates have a positive impact on the treatment of patients and a future role in helping fill gaps in healthcare.

Physician associates are a new professional group in the NHS. They have a first degree, usually in a biomedical science, and are then trained at postgraduate level to assess, investigate, diagnose and commence or change treatment under the supervision of a doctor. A growing number of hospitals in England are employing them in a widening range of medical and surgical specialties.

The research will involve a national survey as well as detailed case studies of physician associates working in different hospitals and in a variety of areas, such as accident and emergency. The experts hope to discover whether physician associates make a difference in the care delivered and get a better understanding of patient’s thoughts about this new type of professional in their hospital medical team.

Professor Vari Drennan, who is leading the study, said treatment and care in hospital settings was changing and, with it, the shape of  medical and surgical teams who looked after patients. “It’s important for the public and clinicians to understand the type of work physician associates do and how they contribute both to the medical team and outcomes for patients,” she added. “This research will help provide answers to some of the questions about this new type of health professional in English hospital care.”

The study has been funded by the National Institute of Health Research, Health Services and Delivery Research Programme. The research team includes patient representatives as well as health professionals and academics from the University of Birmingham, University of Surrey and Royal Holloway, University of London.