About the study

What is the background to the study?

Physician associates are a new professional group in health care teams in the National Health Service (NHS) in the United Kingdom. The Department of Health defines the physician associate as:

"…a new healthcare professional who, while not a doctor, works to the medical model, with the attitudes, skills and knowledge base to deliver holistic care and treatment within the general medical and/or general practice team under defined levels of supervision"
Department of Health Competence and Curriculum Framework for the Physician Associate 2006, updated 2012

Increasing numbers of hospitals in England and Scotland are employing physician associates in a widening range of medical and surgical specialties. However, as they are so new to the NHS, there is little evidence as to what work the physician associates undertake in the medical or surgical teams or what difference they make to patients treatment, the quality of the service or the cost. Likewise little is known about the patient perspective on the involvement of this new type of professional in their hospital medical team or indeed the views of other professionals such as junior doctors and nurses.

How will we undertake this study?

We will investigate these questions through a mixed methods design of four interlinked work-streams. These are summarised in the diagram below.

The full protocol with summaries can be found on the NIHR HS&DR website.

Where can I find out more about physician associates?

More information about the education and work of physician associates can be found on the webpage of the Faculty of Physician Associates at the Royal College of Physicians.