PA-SCER the research 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. 


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

The research

We used a qualitative and quantitative methods in 4 work-streams .  The study started in 2015 , ended in 2018 and the final report was published in 2019. 


Drennan VM, Halter M, Wheeler C, Nice L, Brearley S, Ennis J, Gabe J, Gage H, Levenson R, de Lusignan S, Begg P, Parle J.What is the contribution of physician associates in hospital care in England? A mixed methods, multiple case study. BMJ Open. 2019 Jan 30;9(1):e027012. doi: 10.1136/bmjopen-2018-027012.

VM, Halter M, Wheeler C, Nice L, Brearley S, Ennis J, et al. The role of physician associates in secondary care: the PA-SCER mixed-methods study. Health Serv Deliv Res 2019;7(19)
Halter M, Wheeler C, Pelone F, Gage H, Lusignan S, Frost-Bridges E, Parle JV, Grant R, Gabe J, Nice L. The contribution of physician assistants/associates to secondary care: a systematic review. BMJ Open.  2018 Jun 19;8(6):e019573. doi: 10.1136/bmjopen-2017-019573.
Halter, M., Wheeler, C., Drennan, V.M., de Lusignan, S., Grant, R., Gabe, J., Gage, H., Ennis, J. and Parle, J., 2017. Physician associates in England's hospitals: a survey of medical directors exploring current usage and factors affecting recruitment.Clinical Medicine, 17(2), pp.126-131.
Wheeler, C., Halter, M., Drennan, V.M., de Lusignan, S., Grant, R., Gabe, J., Gage, H., Begg, P., Ennis, J. and Parle, J., 2017. Physician associates working in secondary care teams in England: Interprofessional implications from a national survey. Journal of interprofessional care, 31(6), pp.774-776.