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1 December 2016
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There are currently about 350 physician associates practising and 550 being trained, Health Education England has revealed.
The body wants to see 1,000 physician associates qualifying each year to work in primary care by 2020, as outlined in the GP Forward View.
Development of the role is being encouraged in order to relieve practices of some of the pressure of GP shortages.
The role is currently unregulated although physician associates are able to triage, treat and diagnose patients in the same way as a family doctor.
The only difference in responsibility is that the associates, who have a starter salary of £27,000, are not allowed to prescribe medicine or refer patients for x-rays or CT scans.
The profession is seeking regulation, however so as to work towards gaining prescribing rights and title protection.
Currently, physician associates are strongly encouraged to join a voluntary register. As registered members they must complete 50 hours of CPD annually and pass a re-certification exam every six years.
There is no national funding scheme for the profession, which trains through a full-time postgraduate diploma following a degree in life or healthcare science, and experience working in the health service.
The curriculum framework for the diploma was developed by the Faculty of Physician Associates, which is part of the Royal College of Physicians.