28 April 2015

RCGP Response to BJGP Paper on Physician Associates

Responding to research published in the British Journal of General Practice today [Monday 27 April], Dr Helen Stokes-Lampard, Honorary Treasurer of the Royal College of GPs, said:

“Physician Associates must never replace GPs, but they can play a vital role in supporting doctors and other practice team colleagues.

"Widening the general practice team to include more Physician Associates and other roles - such as pharmacists working in practices as we proposed last month - is beneficial for patients and for general practice.

"GPs are highly trained medical doctors, and our skills at being able to diagnose and treat the ‘whole person’ through initial consultation and the unique relationship we build up with our patients over time cannot be substituted.

"But there are many tasks that take up a huge amount of GPs' time that PAs can do, thus enabling family doctors to spend more time with patients with multiple and complex needs, for whom the standard 10-minute consultation is not enough.

"This study shows that the use of PAs had beneficial outcomes for patients and general practice. But the sample size is low and each case involved robust systems to triage which patients needed to see a GP or who could be seen by a PA. We would need to see more evidence of the effectiveness of these schemes, before they can be rolled out more widely.

"Over 90% of patient contacts in the NHS are managed in general practice for  just 8.4% share of the NHS budget.

“What we urgently need is 10,000 more GPs across the UK to meet the increasing demand of a growing and ageing population, and for general practice to receive 11% of the NHS budget by the end of the next parliament. This would allow us to offer our patients more care in the community, where it is most cost-effective and where our patients want and need it most."

Further Information

The BJGP article can be found here. Please cite the British Journal of General Practice when referencing this research, and where possible include the associated link to the online paper.

RCGP Press office: 020 3188 7574/7575/7581
Out of hours: 0203 188 7659


The Royal College of General Practitioners is a network of more than 50,000 family doctors working to improve care for patients. We work to encourage and maintain the highest standards of general medical practice and act as the voice of GPs on education, training, research and clinical standards.