‘Associate’ medics put patient safety at risk, say doctors
THE rapid expansion of medical ‘associate’ roles is putting patients at risk and must be halted immediately, doctors have warned.
Health chiefs want the physician associates and anaesthetic associates to play a larger role in the NHS over the next 15 years to meet rising demand for care.
They do not have medical degrees, but are increasingly diagnosing and treating patients in hospitals and GP surgeries. However the British Medical Association has called for a recruitment freeze, highlighting cases in which patients have not always known they were being treated by a physician associate and have ‘tragically come to harm’.
It says the recruits are ‘encroaching on the role of doctors’ and the dangers they pose should not be seen as a ‘price worth paying’ for quickly resolving a workforce shortage.
The BMA’s UK Council has passed a motion calling for the moratorium on the grounds of patient safety.
It wants the pause to last until the Government and NHS put guarantees in place to ensure medical associate professionals are properly regulated and supervised.
Some junior doctors have complained that associates are being paid more than they are, are rostered for more sociable hours and are taking places on training programmes that they have been unable to get on.
The BMA’s Phil Banfield said: ‘This blurring of roles and the confusion caused to patients must stop.’
There are more than 3,500 physician associates in the UK, as well as 150 anaesthesia associates and 6,800 nursing associates.
They usually take a three-year undergraduate degree followed by two years of postgraduate training.
An NHS spokesman said: ‘Medical associate professionals are fully trained practitioners who support and work under the supervision of a consultant at all times.’
‘Tragically come to harm’