A new era in the provision of health care locally has been unveiled with the appointment of the first tranche of Physician Associates (PAs) to Health Trusts across Northern Ireland.
Richard Pengelly, the Permanent Secretary at the Department of Health, described the introduction of Physician Associates as “another example of how transformation of health and social care is moving forward on a number of key fronts”.
He added: “In recent days alone, we have had announcements on stroke care reform, breast assessment services, day surgery centres and weight loss surgery.”
PAs work under the delegated authority of a doctor undertaking tasks including medical examinations, analysing test results, and making diagnoses.
Although the students represent a first for Northern Ireland the profession is a developing one within the health sector in the UK and is already firmly established worldwide.
Mr Pengelly continued: “Health and social care services across many countries are facing growing workforce challenges, with demand for care constantly increasing. Innovation and investment in staffing represent an important part of our transformation agenda.
“I very much welcome the new Physician Associates and wish them well in these new roles.”
Chief Medical Officer Dr Michael McBride added: “The role of the Physician Associate can be central to meeting the increasing demands on our service. The generalist skills bring great flexibility to the clinical setting and are unique to the role and it is this versatility that will enable involvement in Emergency Medicine, Mental Health, Care of the Elderly and many more of our pressurised services.”
Professor Paddy Nixon, Vice-Chancellor and President, Ulster University said: “Ulster University is playing a vital role in this time of transformation for the health service in Northern Ireland, through the delivery of innovative, high quality programmes like our Physician Associate Postgraduate Diploma. The course is a tangible example of the value of partnership working between the University, the Department, the HSC Trusts and GPs, collaborating to strengthen the workforce and enhance patient outcomes. Today is an important milestone, not only for these graduates and the healthcare system, but also for the patients, right across the region who will benefit from their skills and professionalism.”
Notes to editors:
1. Entrants to the course must previously have a life science or health-related degree. The Department of Health has supported this programme as a way of generating a local supply of PAs who it is expected will build capacity; expand the skills mix; redistribute physician workload; expand mid-level staffing; help meet demand for increased quality of care; and enhance stability and continuity of care.
2. The Department has subsequently undertaken to commission up to 20 places for PA students from UU on an annual basis over an initial three year period. DoH pay tuition fees, currently £9,545 p/a per student over a two-year course, and provide funding to HSC Trusts and to General Practitioners to facilitate clinical placements in accordance with curriculum requirements.
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