Introducing the roles and regulation

Who are physician associates and anaesthesia associates?

Physician associates (PAs) work alongside doctors and form part of the multidisciplinary team. They work across a range of specialties in general practice, community and hospital settings. Anaesthesia associates (AAs), sometimes also known as physicians’ assistants (anaesthesia), work as part of the anaesthetic team. They provide care for patients before, during and after their operation or procedure.

PAs and AAs are two of the four groups known collectively as medical associate professions (MAPs). The other two, who we will not be regulating, are advanced critical care practitioners and surgical care practitioners.

There are around 3,000 PAs and 180 AAs working in the UK. Although the numbers are relatively small at the moment, we expect them to grow steadily in the next few years. 36 UK universities currently run PA courses, and one university offers the AA course.

What will regulation look like?

In many ways, how we regulate PAs and AAs will be similar to how we regulate doctors. There will be policies and processes that cover:

  • registration
  • professional guidance
  • education
  • fitness to practise.

Our regulatory framework will be proportionate, reflecting the size of the professions, their roles and responsibilities.

Once regulation starts, all PAs and AAs will have to join our register to be able to practise in the UK. Subject to a consultation, we anticipate that those who are already qualified and/or practising in the UK will have up to two years to gain registration.

We’re working closely with stakeholders to develop our regulatory policies and processes for PAs and AAs. Some aspects will be determined by the powers given to the GMC in legislation, so we can’t confirm the detail until after the Government has run its public consultation.

More details of our policies and processes will be added to this guide as we approach the start of regulation.