This month brought us an update from the General Medical Council (GMC) about registration and regulation for PAs. The topic can be quite confusing for some and I find myself answering lots of questions on the subject. So here’s my summary of the hottest topic in healthcare 2020 (biased) since Corona virus…
What is Regulation?
Professional regulation means the people who work within a particular profession are regulated to ensure they are fit to practice. Examples of regulated professionals include solicitors, forensic psychologists and vets. This is also the case in healthcare where doctors, nurses, pharmacists and many more roles are also regulated.
Regulation occurs through registration with a specific professional body e.g. the GMC or the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC). Being regulated ensures everyone in that profession has received a certain level of education/training, fulfill certain criteria and are competent at their jobs.
In professions like the ones mentioned above, it is mandatory (the law) to be registered in order to practice. Professional registers are open to the public which means you can search to check if someone is/isn’t registered.
Are PAs regulated?
Physician Associates in the UK are not currently a mandatory regulated profession. We have a voluntary register which is managed by the Faculty of Physician Associates (FPA) as part of the Royal College of Physicians (RCP). You can see the Physician Associate Managed Voluntary Register (PAMVR) here: https://www.fparcp.co.uk/pamvr
Because it’s a voluntary register, there is the possibility of PAs working without being on the register. This is not recommended and is usually avoided as most PA employers will require registration as part of their employing criteria. The FPA and PAs have been lobbying Government to change laws and make regulation mandatory.
In order to be regulated, a decision had to be made about who would be our regulatory body. In July 2019, the GMC announced that they would take on the task and have been working since then to design the processes and policies that this will involve. This can only start once Government change legislation.
You can read the GMC’s most recent announcement here:
What’s the impact?
Since there is no legal obligation for PAs to be registered on the PAMVR, we have restrictions on what we can do. We are dependent practitioners working under medical supervision and cannot prescribe or request any form of ionising radiation e.g. chest x-rays or CT scans. Although frustrating, this makes absolute sense. As healthcare professionals, patient safety and care is our #1 priority. Just like our patients, you wouldn’t want meds prescribed by someone who is potentially not regulated. I want my healthcare professionals like I want my architects: trained, regulated and accountable for their work! I only use this example because my boyfriend is training to be an architect haha…
Achieving regulation will change the PA profession in so many positive ways. It would legitimise our role by protecting the title ‘Physician Associate’ and ensure uniform standards are maintained within the profession. This could open up opportunities to be more independent practitioners and further improve our impact on the healthcare system.
It would potentially allow us to train to be non -medical prescribers. This term is used to describe trained prescribers who are not doctors such as nurses and pharmacists. It could also change the restrictions on requesting ionising radiation. These potential extra responsibilities could bring about more jobs and better opportunities to develop clinically in the future.
How long will it take?
According to the GMC, changes in legislation are due to happen at the end of 2021. Once the Government have done their bit, the GMC can begin the process of registering PAs. There will be a 2-year transition period to give practising PAs the chance to meet registration requirements. After this transition period, it will be illegal to practice as a PA in the UK without registration.
The arrangements are explained here including some great info-graphics:
In terms of prescribing and requesting ionising radiation, this may take a bit longer and will likely differ between individuals depending on where they work and their employer. I like to think I'll be able to prescribe in the next 5 years, so make sure to check in then to see if my prediction comes true...
Over to you
If you’re interested in being involved and staying up-to-date with regulation, you can sign up to the GMC Community of Interest for PA regulation here: https://www.smartsurvey.co.uk/s/N6RBP/utm_campaign=1810474_MAPs%20newsletter%20-%20September%202020&utm_medium=email&utm_source=General%20Medical%20Council&dm_i=2SYE,12SYY,7F35SB,44SIA,1
For answers to other regulation-related questions, you can have a look here:
For general FAQs regarding PAs, check out the FPA page here: https://www.fparcp.co.uk/about-fpa/faqs
Hope that’s cleared up some of the confusion and answered most of your questions.
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