Education for physician and anaesthesia associates

Once regulation begins, we’ll set the standards for course providers and regularly check that those standards are met. After an initial development and transition period, we’ll also approve refreshed curricula for physician associate (PA) and anaesthesia associate (AA) courses.

Quality assuring PA and AA courses

We’re part way through our first QA checks for PA and AA courses. We want to complete these before regulation begins. The process has a number of steps:

1. Self- assessment: February – May 2021

Course providers completed a quality assurance (QA) self-assessment questionnaire. We asked them how they could show that they meet the standards for managing and delivering education as set out in Promoting Excellence: standards for medical education and training where these are relevant to PA and AA courses. We were on hand to answer their questions.

2. Triangulation and gap analysis: May – July 2021

We looked at the questionnaire answers and combined them with other information we have. This included pass rates in the PA national exam and intelligence from organisations like Health Education England. This helped us get a broad understanding of the quality of teaching at each organisation.

3. Quality activities: August – December 2021

We’ll take a sample of course providers and work with them to discuss follow-up activities. This might include looking in detail at documents we’ve asked for, observing activities on the course, or a visit where we meet staff, teachers and students. On visits we can talk in detail about how the course is managed and delivered. In combination the activities allow us to judge whether we are assured that the course meets our standards.

4. Feedback: September – December 2021

Running alongside the quality activities, all course providers will receive feedback from us. This will be written and include the offer of a meeting if they’d like further discussion.

5. Ongoing QA

After our initial checks in 2021, we’ll carry out another round of quality activities in 2022, using the information we’ve already gathered, but sampling different courses. This will mean that we will be able to carry out activities with more courses before regulation begins.

When regulation begins, the steps described above will become an annual cycle for all courses. They will be able to choose, within reason, which part of the year their cycle begins to best fit their schedule.

Developing new curricula

In autumn 2021, we’ll be seeking feedback on a draft education framework for PAs and AAs.

The framework includes overarching learning outcomes and an outcomes-based curriculum for each profession. The outcomes will ensure consistency, where it's appropriate, between the curricula. This will be especially relevant across professional capabilities such as teaching and leadership. Each curriculum will set out the profession-specific capabilities we'll expect students to learn.

Course providers will use the curriculum as a guide when designing their course, including their syllabus and assessments. We’ll check that they’ve done this appropriately through our quality assurance activities.

We’ll ask course providers to make sure that any students joining from September 2023 follow a course aligned to this framework.