The Government Just Proposed A New Plan Meant To Boost The NHS. Doctors Are In 'Uproar'.

Key legislation you may have missed amid the Rwanda bill row.
Junior doctors on the picket line at Cardiff's University Hospital
Junior doctors on the picket line at Cardiff's University Hospital
Ben Birchall - PA Images via Getty Images

The government’s latest attempt to prop the NHS up has left doctors absolutely furious.

On Wednesday, a framework to regulate physician associates (PAs) and anaesthesia associates (AAs) under the General Medical Council was debated by a few MPs in a committee room.

This means more PAs and AAs would be treating NHS patients.

The framework was passed by statutory instrument yesterday, and will soon be moved into the Lords for further debate. The government is hoping it will become law by the end of this year.

On the surface, this sounds like it would give the struggling NHS the boost it needs, by bringing more healthcare professionals onto the frontline.

And PAs and AAs are healthcare professionals – but they’re not as highly trained as doctors, having spent fewer years gaining expertise.

So the expansion of these roles has prompted concerns about what this will mean for patient safety.

As of December 12, more than 10,000 doctors had written to their MPs expressing their alarm over this news.

According to a UK-wide survey conducted by the British Medical Association (BMA), 87% of doctors responding felt patients might not be aware of the differences between those roles and fully qualified doctors.

A further 86% of respondents complained that the way PAs and AAs “currently work in the NHS is always or sometimes a risk to patients safety”.

The chair of the Doctors’ Association UK (DAUK), Dr Matt Kneale, said: “The rollout of PAs and AAs must be paused given the amount of uproar there has been and given the amount of patient safety concerns that have been raised across the country.”

He also slammed the decision to debate this legislation away from the main chambers of parliament yesterday, saying it should not be “hidden away to avoid proper scrutiny”.

“Statutory instruments are meant for technical pieces of legislation, and certainly weren’t intended for complex, controversial legislation like the regulation of potentially dangerous medical replacements,” Dr Kneale said.

In a thread on X, formerly known as Twitter, the doctor claimed: “A foundation doctor, who might oversee the work of a PA on a ward and prescribe for them, gets paid a salary of £28,274 pa for a 9-5 job. A first day PA would receive £35,392.”

He alleged that this is akin to “a paralegal being paid more than a senior associate lawyer”.

The lobbying group said it is looking into possible legal challenges, and called on the Lords to examine this legislation thoroughly before it’s finally passed into law.

The BMA, has also expressed frustration over this legislation, describing it as “hugely disappointing”.

Health minister Andrew Stephenson said the government “recognised” these concerns during the committee reading yesterday.

He said that these roles are meant to “work with doctors and not to replace them”.

He added: “AAs and PAs are distinct, complimentary, and valued professionals who can enrich the workforce’s skill mix, freeing up doctors and consultants to spend more time using their specialist skills and training to focus on complex clinical duties and decisions around patient care.”

He also said the NHS long term workforce plan looks to double the number of medical placements in England to 15,000 a year by 2031/32.

He said the belief that PAs and AAs will be “replacing” doctors in the NHS is mistaken, as the government is still looking to introduce more doctors than PAs and AAs.

Stephenson claimed there will be a “5 to 1” ratio of doctors to PAs and AAs by 2036/7.

Still, posts from doctors and members of the general public expressing their frustration, and alarm, flooded social media yesterday.


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