Physician Associates (PA’s) support doctors in the diagnosis and management of patients, and will therefore have regular direct contact with patients. Often PA’s are graduates who have undertaken post-graduate training and are working under the supervision of a GP. 

This type of health care professional takes pressure off of GPs and helps to provide patients, especially those with long term conditions, the continuity of care they need – often it can be difficult for GPs to commit to seeing the same patient long-term due to restrictions on their time. 

This new role differs from a GPs role in that currently, they are able to work under supervision of a GP, but unable to prescribe medication, or refer patients for an x-ray of CT scan. In practice, this means they have to wait for a GP to approve a prescription of x-ray referral on his or her behalf. Whereas practice nurses traditionally specialise, physician associates are generalists; medically trained across a wide range of conditions. This means they are able to diagnose and treat children, as well as adults, with a range of clinical problems.

What does a Physicians Associate do?

  • Taking medical histories from patients
  • Performing physical examinations
  • Diagnosing illnesses
  • Seeing patients with long-term chronic conditions
  • Performing diagnostic and therapeutic procedures
  • Analysing test results
  • Developing management plans
  • Provide health promotion and disease prevention advice for patients.

Entry requirements

Once qualified, PA’s are strongly encouraged to join the physician associate managed voluntary register. Once on the register they will have to complete 50 hours of continuing professional development annually and pass a re-certification examination every six years.