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Nurse uproar over new GP assistants

Plans to bring in new GP assistants will tread on nurse practitioner toes, say Nursing in Practice readers.

Physician assistants are to "supplement the existing NHS workforce" in taking medical histories, performing examinations, diagnosing illnesses and analysing test results.

But Nursing in Practice readers agree that the new profession is unnecessary, as nurse practitioners have been doing the job for years.   

One Nursing in Practice reader commented: "Why bring in yet another layer of clinician when we are already out there just waiting for recognition for the job that we do?"

Readers are also worried that bringing in new GP assistants will lower their status as nurses and cut their financial rewards.

Some say the new role is just a play on words, with a reader questioning, "Is the physician assistant just another fancy title that is going to confuse doctors, nurses and more importantly patients?"

Lynne Gray, a nurse clinician from Skelmersdale concludes that instead of creating a completely new profession, the Nursing and Midwifery Council should "pull itself together and recognise advanced practice qualifications."

Related story: More assistants to work with GPs

Your comments: (Terms and conditions apply)

"I do not agree with the complaints that the nursing groups in the UK have with the institution of PAs in England. PAs are well used in the US and have a different level of training then nurses as well as advance practice nurses do. All through nursing school we learn the "nursing model" of health care whereas we regularly make distinctions between us and the "medical model" of doing things. There is a reason that the doctors are the ones making the medical decisions and placed at the top of the hierarchy.PA's training/education is modeled after those of medical schools. They take the same classes as medical students and complete the same clinical rotations as medical students and interns/residents...often alongside them. Advance practice nurses or nurse practitioners (NPs) do none of these. They are taught by other NPs and don't do nearly half as many hours of clinical training as PAs do. NPs specialize in adult medicine or peds or something else, whereas PAs are trained in all facets of general medicine just like MDs.

"There is a large difference in training between PAs and advance practice nurses. NPs take one extra year of school/training and then they are considered practitioners. PAs go through two and a half years of training by physicians/MDs and clinically train with a year of residency as well.

"The difference is clear. England would/will benefit from having these type of providers in their midst." - Albert Lin

"No... Physician assistants have been recognized healthcare professionals for over 30 years in the United States and other parts of the world. They are trained in the medical model and practice under physician supervision. Their presence will do nothing to hinder the recognition and respect for the advanced nursing profession, it will only offer more options for a strained healthcare system on the verge of a clinician shortage crisis.  PAs and advanced nurse practicioners in the USA have worked in harmony for decades and continue to do so in a team effort led by physicians. There is no reason it cannot work here aswell." - Name and address supplied

"Physician assistants are trained alongside medical students/interns and the education is done by MDs. This is VERY different from nurse practitioner's training in the US. Nurse practitioners take one extra year after becoming registered nurses and typically they are educated by other nurse practitioners or nurses. Physician assistants are taught and trained by doctors to think the way they do and practice alongside them. This is the main difference between the two professions and England will benefit greatly to have such a position opened." - Name and address supplied

"No I do not agree. Physician assistants are trained in the medical model and take the same courses as medical students and do the same clinical rotations as medical students and interns. Nurses and advanced practice nurses are taught by other nurses and do not have the same education as physician assistants and MDs do." - Name and address supplied