Health experts find Physician Associates provide efficient care for patients and can take the pressure off GPs

physician associateA study into the impact on the NHS of a new type of health worker who help doctors has shown they can help relieve pressure on general practitioners (GPs).

The Physician Associates (PAs) work to a supervising doctor and see mainly patients requesting same day or urgent appointments in general practice.
In the first UK study into their impact, led by health experts at St George’s, University of London, and Kingston University, have shown PAs are acceptable to patients, effective, efficient and safe.

The study team found the PAs complemented the work of GPs, seeing patients who have more minor problems but to maximise their impact in general practice they now need to be authorised to prescribe medicines.

Vari Drennan, Professor of Health Care and Policy Research, at the Faculty of Health, Social Care and Education, which is jointly managed by the two universities, said:  “We found that the relatively new role of Physician Associate can make a valuable and flexible contribution to primary care in the NHS supporting GPs and helping respond to growing patient use of primary care services.

“However, in order to maximise their contribution, consideration needs to be given to the appropriate level of regulation and the potential for allowing them to prescribe medicines.

“Future research is required to investigate their potential contribution across a host of areas including urgent care facilities and in hospital medical teams.

The study was funded by the National Institute of Health Research Health Service & Delivery Research programme

The study has been published in the National Institute of Health Research Delivery Research Journal here

Notes for editors
This report presents independent research commissioned by the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR). The views and opinions expressed by authors in this publication are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect those of the NHS, the NIHR, NETSCC, the Health Service & Delivery Research (HS& DR) or the Department of Health.

Physician associates were formerly known as physician assistants.

The reference for the report is:
Drennan VM, Halter M, Brearley S, Carneiro W, Gabe J, Gage H, et al. Investigating the contribution of physician assistants to primary care in England: a mixed-methods study. Health ;Serv Deliv Res 2014;2(16).

The study team included academics from the University of Surrey and Royal Holloway, University of London
The Research Team

Vari M Drennan,1* Mary Halter,1 Sally Brearley,1 Wilfred Carneiro,2 Jonathan Gabe,3 Heather Gage,4 Robert Grant,1 Louise Joly1 and Simon de Lusignan5

  1. Faculty of Health, Social Care and Education, Kingston University and St George’s
    University of London, London, UK
  2. Directorate of Corporate Affairs, St George’s Healthcare NHS Trust, London, UK
  3. Centre for Criminology and Sociology, Royal Holloway, University of London,
    London, UK
  4. School of Economics, University of Surrey, Guildford, UK
  5. Department of Health Care Management and Policy, University of Surrey,
    Guildford, UK