The Physician Associate (PA) profession in the United Kingdom just celebrated its 10-year anniversary, and it is a proud time for these healthcare professionals. They have accomplished a lot in the last ten years, but how did the profession start in England? What challenges did PAs in the United Kingdom face? And how is this fairly new profession progressing?

The Clinical Advisor spoke with Shane Apperley, PA-R, a senior orthopaedic physician associate from Gloucester, England, to learn the answers to these questions and more.

The United Kingdom Association of Physician Associates (UKAPA) was founded in 2005. But the true beginning of the profession was in 2003, when American PA’s were invited to Birmingham, England, to take part in a pilot project that would evaluate how PA’s might fit into the UK health-care system.

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The pilot project was a success, and in 2006 the UK Department of Health developed the PA “competence and curriculum framework” that essentially served as the blueprint for PA scope of practice.  

What is most unique about this document is that it not only received input from professional medical organizations but also from the public. In 1998 the Pew Health Professions Commission published a report, “Recreating Health Professional Practice for a New Century,” which called for an increased representation of public non-medical members to contribute to professional medical boards.

It is very impressive that this relatively new program recognized the importance of taking this step, which is clearly seen as an important goal by American policy organizations.

Developing this framework was instrumental in establishing the profession, according to Apperly. This document helped define the role of the Physician Associate, as well as the education requirements for this new profession.

Although the role of the PA in the United Kingdom is very similar to that of the American PA, the education curriculum is very different.