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Do Physician Assistants benefit GP practices and their patients?

N.A.P.P. has reviewed research by Drennan et al (1) on the contribution of physicians assistants in primary care.  This work was published in 2014 and funded by NIHR.

The research shows that physician assistants can complement GPs, particularly by seeing patients with less complex and less medically acute problems, and that they were judged as “competent and safe” by independent GPs. They were also being used to enhance the provision of same-day appointments. The consultations carried out by physician assistants were a bit longer than GP consultations, but were still cheaper.

Whilst patients, in the main, accepted physician assistants, they did want to ensure they still had choice in who to they would see at their practice.

Dr Patricia Wilkie, President and Chairman of N.A.P.P. said “We cautiously welcome this small study and its evidence of the possible contribution of physician assistants to primary care. However, we know many patients value continuity of care particularly if they have more complex health problems and access to a GP of choice is still very important. Patients must be able to choose to see their GP if they would prefer, even if a physician assistant is available as an alternative.”

A short report on the research is available via this summary document here

1. Vari M Drennan, Mary Halter, Sally Brearley et al  “Investigating the contribution of physician assistants to primary care in England: a mixed- methods study” Health Service and Delivery Research 2014;Vol 2: No. 16


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