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GMC launches consultation on the regulation of physician associates

The General Medical Council has launched a consultation on the rules, standards and guidance by which it will regulate physician associates and and anaesthesia associates.

The General Medical Council (GMC) has launched a consultation on the rules, standards and guidance by which it will regulate physician associates (PAs) and anaesthesia associates (AAs).

The UK government asked the GMC to regulate the two professions back in July 2019. Legislation paving the way for that to happen was laid in parliament in December 2023 and passed, in Westminster and Edinburgh, earlier this year. It will come into effect in December 2024.

The GMC must be ready to regulate PAs and AAs – in addition to the doctors it already regulates – by the end of 2024. Before that can happen there needs to a consultation on the rules, standards and guidance that provide the detail for how regulation will be delivered.

Charlie Massey, Chief Executive of the GMC, said: “Everyone agrees that regulation is needed and that it will benefit patient safety and public confidence. We are now setting out our proposed approach for how we will regulate these professions. This consultation is not about whether the GMC should be the regulator but about how we regulate. The law requires us to take on this role from December this year.

‘It is important for us to hear feedback from representatives of patients, PAs, AAs, doctors and employers, as well as other stakeholders and from individuals. This consultation will determine how we implement the powers and duties the legislation gives us.”

Widespread consultation of physician associates needed

The news was welcomed by NHS Employers who said that a clear set of standards on physician associates is a positive and timely step and that it shouldn’t be done by one group or trade body.

Danny Mortimer, chief executive of NHS Employers, said: “Recent discussions regarding physician and anaesthetic associates have focused in large part on the need for statutory registration, and employers welcome this now being implemented during the course of this year.  It is important that such work is not developed unilaterally by any one group, profession or trade body and the ability for all groups and the public to respond to this consultation is very welcome indeed.”

It follows guidance published by the British Medical Association setting out the scope of responsibilities for physician associates and anaesthesia associates. The recommendations are designed to work at a national level across all medical practices and use a simple ‘traffic lights’ system identifying what MAPs might be expected to do on their own (green), what they might do under supervision (orange) and what they must not do (red).

The Royal College of GPs has also confirmed its existing ‘red lines’ on PAs, and voted to add two more, explicitly stating that the training and retention of GPs must be prioritised and that the responsibilities and skills required by GPs to supervise PAs must be recognised and resourced.

The GMC consultation runs for eight weeks until midnight on the night of Monday 20 May. It also covers other areas of the GMC’s oversight of PAs and AAs. These include:

  • education and training
  • registration
  • fees
  • dealing with concerns.

In addition, the consultation is also asking for views on draft principles to inform the content of fitness to practise decision-making guidance that will, from the end of this year, apply to doctors as well as to PAs and AAs.

Find out more, and to get involved in the GMC’s consultation: Regulating anaesthesia associates and physician associates – consultation on our proposed rules, standards and guidance.

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