Wales funds two-year pilot to recruit US physician assistants

Wales has followed England and Scotland in recruiting physician assistants (PAs) from the US.

Benny Harston
Benny Harston
Six new posts will be created under the two-year pilot project, which has funding of £70,000 to pay for the recruitment, induction and evaluation of the workers.

However, the salaries of the PAs will be met by the practices they will be working in. A spokesman for the Welsh Assembly said pay rates would be a matter for GP practices although it was encouraging GPs to use the Agenda for Change job evaluation framework.

PAs in England and Scotland have been placed on salaries of £40,000.

The Welsh Assembly is in discussions with local health boards to find practices to host the PAs and the spokesman said they hoped to start recruiting early this year.

Linda Penny, a nurse practitioner in Torfaen in South East Wales, said the decision had demoralised nurse practitioners and specialist nurses who, in addition, had all been given low bandings under Agenda for Change.

‘To know that we’ve been ignored in favour of unknown practitioners from the US who don’t know the health system and who may be paid up to £40,000 is very depressing,’ she said.

Ms Penny admitted that nurse practitioners in Wales needed a higher profile because there were not as many of them as in England, nor were they such a cohesive group.

However, she said many GPs she had spoken to were also unimpressed with the move to recruit PAs because they were being asked to pay expensive wages without being sure if the new role would be a help or a hindrance.

Benny Harston, chair of the RCN’s Nurse Practitioner Association, said she felt the PA role was ‘dying a death’ in England. She said GPs were proving ambivalent towards the new role and the government had stopped funding places.

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