Regulation of medical associates will bolster workforce

We believe properly regulated medical associate professions could grow to significantly strengthen health services.

Regulation of the four medical associate roles would help them reach their full potential as a professional group while ensuring patient safety. And we believe we are well-placed to provide that regulation.

We have made this case for regulation following a Department of Health (England) consultation on the regulation of medical associate professions.

Read our full response to the consultation on the regulation of medical associate professions.

The four medical associate professions groups are:

  • physician associates
  • surgical care practitioners
  • advanced critical care
  • physician assistants

We have argued that the four groups should be treated as a single umbrella profession made up of four areas of practice, rather than as four discrete professions.

We would be well-placed to accept regulatory responsibility for MAPs, providing the Government agrees:

  • they are seen as a single profession with different areas of practice under a flexible, future-proofed legal framework
  • funding to cover our costs of setting up their regulation. We are clear that doctors should not subsidise these costs or the ongoing regulation of MAPs.
  • a timetable that allows for a ‘smooth transition’, with the regulation of the four roles happening in stages rather than all at once.

The Government’s consultation asks whether MAPs should be regulated by us or the Health and Care Professions Council.

Modern healthcare

Chief Executive, Charlie Massey, said: ‘Our health services must be dynamic to meet the changing needs of patients and we believe a range of new professionals with varied skillsets must be part of the solution.

‘It’s down to the four UK governments to decide which of these roles should be regulated and by whom.

‘However, as medical associates work closely with doctors, we believe there is a strong argument that we should accept responsibility for them. We are in a good place to do this, providing the Government gives us funding and the underlying legislation is fit enough for modern healthcare.

‘Regulating these roles as a single profession rather than four separate groups would mean that we could help to grow a new profession, one that has the potential to increase their support for doctors who we know continue to face huge strains on their time.’

Competent high-quality care 

The Academy of Medical Royal Colleges said in its response to the consultation:

'We believe there is real value in developing MAPs as a coherent group working very closely with doctors. For that reason we believe there is a strong case for MAPs to be regulated by the GMC to ensure a consistency and commonality of approach. The Academy believes that it would be highly unsatisfactory to have a fragmented system with some MAPs regulated by one regulator, some by another and possibly some not all.

‘It also has to be recognised that there are concerns amongst some medical staff of MAPs taking on tasks which should be undertaken by doctors. If the GMC regulates MAPs it will be able to ensure the appropriate balance of responsibilities.’

Jeannie Watkins, president of the Faculty of Physician Associates (FPA) at the Royal College of Physicians (RCP) said:

‘The GMC has a long history and wealth of experience in regulating doctors, and understands the standards required both educationally and professionally to deliver safe, competent high quality medical care to patients.

‘Regulation from the GMC would help provide professional credibility and inspire confidence in both our healthcare colleagues and most importantly patients. The GMC would therefore be a natural fit to regulate physician associates.’

The Department of Health is expected to release a report on the outcome of its consultation in 2018.