The Royal College of Physicians has indicated that there will be more than 3,000 qualified physician associates by 2020.

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St George’s welcomes the expansion of the plans previously announced by Jeremy Hunt, Health Secretary, who had said he wanted to see 1,000 physician associates working in the NHS by the end of this decade.

Health Education England has commissioned 657 training places for physician associates in 2016/17, an increase of 220% on the previous year.

Jeannie Watkins, President of the Faculty of Physician Associates at the Royal College of Physicians (RCP) and Senior Lecturer in Physician Associate Studies at St George's, University of London, said: “The fact that the NHS is going to get an extra 3,000 highly qualified new healthcare professionals is great news for the NHS. Physician Associates have a science or healthcare related degree before they start their course which is two years of robust medical training.

In an article by The Daily Mail, Cut price doctor will see you now, Joyce Robins, director of Patient Concern, described physician associates as ‘doctors on the cheap’.

“It really is nonsense that these Physician Associates are cut-price GPs. They are there to support doctors and take the pressure off healthcare services which are under strain.

“Patients who have experience of being treated by Physician Associates have said they are happy with the care they have received. The medical profession has broadly welcomed this role in helping doctors deliver the best care they can for patients.”

Since 2008 St George’s, University of London has been training PAs to work in the NHS in general practice and hospitals.

The Physician Associate programme at St George’s is the longest running programme in the UK.

Nearly 100 PAs are currently being trained at St George’s and that number is expected to rise this year to 140.