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US medics flown in to fill UK training gap

1 June 2015

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Thirty American medics are being brought to the UK to work in the Leicester’s hospitals and GP surgeries, due to the GP gap.

Leicester City clinical commissioning group (CCG), is spending £600,000 to bring 10 US-trained physician associates to work in their GP surgeries. The other 20 American medics will work at Leicester hospitals.

There is not a current training programme for physician associates in this country, though they are being developed at a number of universities including Birmingham, Wolverhampton and Worcester.

Professor Farooqi, GP and chair of Leicester City CCG, said: “In common with many parts of the country, Leicester has a shortage of GPs. The physician associates will not be able to prescribe but they will be able to take on a substantial amount of clinical work, working in tandem with GPs. This will enable GPs to focus on patients that specifically require their particular skills.”  

Farooqi said: “We are recruiting from the US purely because there are not sufficient physician associates in the UK – currently there are only around 250 of them – whereas there is a ready supply of these staff available to us from the US.”

They are being recruited by Health Education East Midlands and will receive training about the UK primary care system and the local clinical pathways.

The first recruits will start work later this year in two-year posts, during this time the CCG aims to set up a local model of education, which will provide the required skills so that they can recruit locally.

For the first year they will be funded by the CCG and for the next two years the individual practices will foot the bill.

“The physician associate role is also significantly cheaper than a GP, however this is not the primary consideration for us as commissioners; the prime benefit is in enabling us to fill a staffing gap quickly and effectively,” he said.