Transformative Education
for Health Professionals

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Physician Associates in the United Kingdom

Shane Apperly BSc(Hons), PGA., MSc.,Assoc MIHM, PA-R, Nadia Cobb MS, PA-C

The Physician Associate (PA) was introduced to the UK in 2003 following a two year collaborative pilot project between the Changing Workforce Programme and Kingston and St George’s University.  PAs were first introduced to the UK in response to the introduction of the European Working Time Directive (EWTD) changes in education for doctors in training and the effects of having to cope with an aging population with multiple complex needs.


Full project description: 

As of November 2014 there are currently five Universities graduating physician associates (PAs) in the UK. Recently, an agreement between the Royal College of Physicians (RCP) and the UK Association of Physician Associates (UKAPA) to establish a Faculty of PAs within the Royal College has been reached. Amongst other things the RCP is to help the profession gain statutory regulation.

The definition of the physician associate in the UK by the Department of Health's Competence and Curriculum Framework for the Physician Associate is

"…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.”

Abderdeen University, Birmingham University, Worcester University, Wolverhampton University and St. Georges University are the current training sites in the UK for Physician Associates. Plymouth University Peninsula School of Medicine will be starting in 2015, with several others on the docket. The training consists of 2 years, with 1,600 hours of clinical training.

PAs in the UK work in general practice, emergency/critical care, surgery as well as community psychiatry. They work very closely under the scope of their supervising physicians. Currently there is a lack of statutory regulation so PA’s cannot prescribe medications.

65% of PAs and PA students are women and 35% are men. PAs and PA students are drawn from diverse ethnic backgrounds and from a wide-range of previous occupations – the most commonly reported being nursing, health care assistant and paramedic.

In its recent report, The Future Hospital Commission (FHC) noted that the current model of health delivery in the NHS is not sustainable without radical change through new roles and new ways of working. Further, it specifically highlighted the importance of broadening clinical teams to integrate this “new cadre of health care professional”

Photo credit:

Map Image of Physician Associates in the UK courtesy of


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