Pioneering Physician Associate programme going from strength to strength in Staffordshire and Stoke-on-Trent

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Staffordshire and Stoke-on-Trent is leading the way nationally thanks to a pioneering internship programme which is helping to support local general practice and other healthcare providers.

The Staffordshire Physician Associate (PA) Internship is the first initiative of its kind to offer structured placements for groups of PAs within primary and secondary care along with a structured teaching programme.

The first group of PAs to have completed the programme are now working alongside local GPs and other healthcare professionals. Further cohorts of students are coming to Staffordshire and Stoke-on-Trent from across the country to embark on the internship.

The programme is led by the North Staffordshire GP Federation in partnership with University Hospitals of North Midlands NHS Trust. It also includes other provider NHS trusts in Staffordshire and Stoke-on-Trent, as well as a growing list of local GP practices.

It forms part of the Workforce Programme of Together We’re Better (STP), the partnership of NHS and local government organisations that is working to transform health and care for people locally.

Physician Associates are medically trained healthcare professionals. The internship allows PAs to spend three days a week working in general practice and the other two days as part of an acute or mental health team. Among the tasks they are qualified to carry out include performing physical examinations, seeing patients with long-term chronic conditions and providing health promotion and disease prevention advice.

As part of their internship, the PAs also receive face-to-face training courtesy of Alex Strivens-Joyce, PA Ambassador for the local area.

Alex said: “This is the only programme like this in the UK. In the relatively short time since it was launched, we now have nine Physician Associates working across Staffordshire and Stoke-on-Trent, with more on the way – all of whom are helping to bolster general practice, acute and mental health care locally. That’s extremely rewarding for me and a real feather in the cap for the local system here.”

Elita Unyolo is a Stoke-on-Trent-based Physician Associate who is among the current cohort of PA internees. She currently splits her week working at Royal Stoke University Hospital’s Surgical Assessment Unit and at Moorcroft Medical Centre in Hanley and Moss Green Surgery in Bentilee and praised the programme for the variety it provides.

She said: “The freedom offered by being a Physician Associate is great. Staffordshire and Stoke-on-Trent are at the forefront when it comes to being a PA; none of the other internships that exist provide the teaching aspect and the fact that you can work in both primary and secondary care is fantastic. PAs can offer a lot to a GP practice or other NHS healthcare provider; likewise, the teaching, training and supervision you receive in this patch is excellent.”

Dr Sharon Turner, Clinical Lead for the internship programme, said: “Demand for a place on this highly innovative programme has been considerably strong, attracting a significant proportion of the newly qualified PA workforce across the country. We are extremely proud of the programme and are delighted that it has also this week been endorsed by the Royal College of General Practitioners.”

Greg Moores, Lead for Together We’re Better’s Workforce Programme, said: “By helping to put Staffordshire and Stoke-on-Trent on the map in this way, the Physician Associates working on this nationally recognised programme are a great advert for our local health services and forms part of our wider programme of health and social care workforce transformation for Together We’re Better.”

Simon Whitehouse, Together We’re Better Director, said: “As part of the transformation of health and care that the Together We’re Better partnership is committed to delivering for the people of Staffordshire and Stoke-on-Trent, we need a highly skilled and motivated workforce. Our workforce is our biggest asset and it is really important that we look to develop a local workforce that is flexible and that meets the clinical needs of local people. This fantastic and innovative programme is helping to deliver that change by attracting Physician Associates here to support local GPs and other healthcare professionals.”

Physician Associate