People are 'Embracing' Physician Associates as a Genuine Solution to NHS Problems, Says Award Winner

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Physician Associates (PAs) in the UK are rapidly being embraced as a solution to the NHS’s staffing issues, according to University of Worcester lecturer and recently-announced PA of the Year, Kate Straughton.

Kate was crowned the winner of the award at the UK Association of Physician Associates (UKAPA) annual conference, which was held in Worcester in April. The association represents well over 100 PAs – health professionals who support doctors in the diagnosis and management of patients.

When she graduated in 2009, Kate was one of just 40 qualified PAs in the country. Since then though, the American PA model has been adopted by an increasing number of British universities, and a greater understanding of the profession has developed on this side of the Atlantic.

There are now over 200 qualified PAs in this country, and with more and more universities developing post-graduate courses, it is estimated that by 2018, 450 new PAs will graduate each year.

Kate explains: “More people are now talking about the role that PAs can play in this country. It is now widely understood that PAs are not intent on ‘taking over’ from doctors, but can instead supplement the medical workforce.

“More people are embracing the profession as a genuine solution to some of the problems in the NHS, to the extent that demand for PAs is currently outstripping supply.

“Worcester is one of six British universities currently training PAs, but there are plenty more courses currently being developed, which shows how engagement with the profession has developed, and how successful universities such as Worcester have been in leading the way in this country.”

After being nominated for the PA of the Year award by her colleagues at the University, Kate was named on a shortlist of three before being voted winner by an expert panel. The award has been running for three years, and Kate is the second member of the University of Worcester’s PA team to collect the honour – Alex Curran won the award in 2013.

As the Worcester course’s Clinical Placement Lead, Kate currently divides her time between teaching in the classroom and visiting students out on placement. She says she hopes that her success can help to inspire the University’s PA students, the first cohort of whom are coming towards the end of the first year of their intensive, two-year course.

“The award is given out as recognition for supporting and representing the profession,” Kate explains. “I always aim to represent the profession as well as I can, and hopefully this recognition will demonstrate to the students that hard work and commitment pay off.

“Our students are fantastic. They work very hard, but are already well on the way to becoming safe and competent practitioners. I’ve got no doubt that, by time they finish their studies here, they will be excellent ambassadors for the profession.”