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Researching Physician Associates

PA-SCER is a research study investigating the contribution that Physician Associates make to secondary care health services in England.

Please see below our first two publications from the study:

  • Physician associates in England's hospitals: a survey of medical directors exploring current usage and factors affecting recruitment
  • Halter M, Wheeler C, Drennan VM, de Lusignan S, Grant R, Gabe J, Gage H, Ennis J, and Parle J. (2017). Clinical Medicine, 17(2), pp. 126-131. ISSN (print) 1470-2118

    In the UK secondary care setting, the case for physician associates is based on the cover and stability they might offer to medical teams. We assessed the extent of their adoption and deployment – that is, their current usage and the factors supporting or inhibiting their inclusion in medical teams – using an electronic, self-report survey of medical directors of acute and mental health NHS trusts in England. Physician associates – employed in small numbers, in a range of specialties, in 20 of the responding trusts – were reported to have been employed to fill gaps in medical staffing and support medical specialty trainees. Inhibiting factors were commonly a shortage of physician associates to recruit and lack of authority to prescribe, as well as a lack of evidence and colleague resistance. Our data suggest there is an appetite for employment of physician associates while practical and attitudinal barriers are yet to be fully overcome

  • Physician associates working in secondary care teams in England: Interprofessional implications from a national survey
  • Wheeler C, Halter M, Drennan VM, de Lusignan S, Grant R, Gabe J, Gage H, Begg P, Ennis J, Parle J. (2017). J Interprof Care. 1-3. doi: 10.1080/13561820.2017.1341390. [Epub ahead of print]

    Physician associates (PAs) are a new type of healthcare professional to the United Kingdom; however, they are well established in the United States (where they are known as physician assistants). PAs are viewed as one potential solution to the current medical workforce doctor shortage. This study investigated the deployment of PAs within secondary care teams in England, through the use of a crosssectional electronic, self-report survey. The findings from 14 questions are presented. Sixty-three PAs working in a range of specialties responded. A variety of work settings were reported, most frequently inpatient wards, with work generally taking place during weekdays. Both direct and non-direct patient care activities were reported, with the type of work undertaken varying at times, depending on the presence or absence of other healthcare professionals. PAs reported working within a variety of secondary care team staffing permutations, with the majority of these being interprofessional. Line management was largely provided by consultants; however day-to-day supervision varied, often relating to different work settings. A wide variation in ongoing supervision was also reported. Further research is required to understand the nature of PAs’ contribution to collaborative care within secondary care teams in England.