New course aims to ease pressure on doctors

Published: 17 June 2015 at 15:28

Anglia Ruskin University to become first in region to train Physician Associates

A new Physician Associates course being offered by Anglia Ruskin University can help meet the needs of a growing and ageing population.

The MSc course will be offered by Anglia Ruskin from September 2015 to provide intensive clinical training for students who already have a degree in life or health sciences. The Royal College of GPs (RCGP) has said that Physician Associates can play a “vital role in supporting doctors and other practice team colleagues”.

Physician Associates are trained to be able to take a patient’s history and then perform some physical examinations and request and interpret diagnostic test results. They can also diagnose illnesses, develop treatment plans and perform therapeutic procedures. They work alongside doctors, providing support in hospitals and GP surgeries.

With GPs under increasing pressure and with a shortfall of around 8,000 family doctors in England, as estimated by the RCGP, Physician Associates will not be a substitute for GPs but can carry out many duties that will enable existing doctors to spend more time on treating and caring for patients, many of whom have complex needs.

A study published in the British Journal of General Practice last month said: “Physician Associates have the potential to be an asset to the primary care workforce in healthcare systems looking to strengthen their primary healthcare provision in the face of shortages of doctors, increasing demands, and financial stringency.”

Dr Ruth Jackson, Dean of the Faculty of Medical Science at Anglia Ruskin, said:

“As a population we are living longer and the NHS faces huge challenges in the years to come to ensure people receive the care to which they are entitled. In the East of England there are several hard-to-reach areas which are struggling to attract GPs and we are hopeful our students can help ease the strain on healthcare services.
“Physician Associates will work alongside doctors as part of the general practice team to boost the number of healthcare professionals and carry out key duties, meaning better care for patients. There are only a handful of establishments currently providing an opportunity to train to become a Physicians Associate in the UK and Anglia Ruskin is proud to be joining their ranks from September.”

The MSc being offered by Anglia Ruskin is a 27-month course, led by Dr Eqramur Rahman and delivered by a range of experienced and appropriately qualified tutors and clinicians, including medically trained staff and a Physician Associate. It will be based at Anglia Ruskin’s Chelmsford campus and students will use brand new skills labs which are currently under construction.

Besides lectures, tutorials, practical workshops, role play and simulated skills work on campus, students will complete a programme of clinical placement rotations in hospital wards, outpatient settings and general practice across the East of England in clinical specialties including paediatrics, general surgery, dental health and community-based medicine.

An agreement with Health Education East of England will allow 30 UK students starting in September to study the course part-funded, with fees of £1,050 per year.