A new study will determine whether new physician associates (PAs), who are increasing being used in the NHS, have a positive impact on the treatment of patients as part of the medical team and have a future role helping fill gaps in healthcare provision.


Physician associates are a new professional group to the NHS. They have a first degree, usually in a biomedical science, and are then trained at a postgraduate level in the medical model to assess, investigate, diagnose and commence or change treatment under the supervision of a doctor.

Increasing numbers of hospitals in England are employing PAs in a widening range of medical and surgical specialties.

Experts at the Faculty of Health, Social Care and Education at Kingston University and St George’s, University of London, will now begin a two-year study into the role the PAs play in the NHS hospitals.

They hope to discover whether PAs make a difference to the care of patients and what patients think about this new type of professional in their hospital medical team.

The research will involve a national survey as well as detailed case studies of PAs working in different hospitals and in different speciality areas such as accident and emergency. Results are expected towards the end of 2015.

Professor Vari Drennan, leading the study, said: “Patient treatment and care in hospital settings is changing and with it the shape of the medical and surgical teams who look after them.

“It is important for the public and clinicians to understand the type of work physician associates do and how they contribute to the medical team and outcomes for patients. This research will help provide answers to some of their questions about this new type of health professional to English hospital care.”

This study has been funded by the National Institute of Health Research, Health Services & Delivery Research Programme (HS&DR).

The research team includes patient representatives as well as health professionals and academics from thee other universities: University of Birmingham, University of Surrey and Royal Holloway, University of London .

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