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Last Updated: Friday, 4 November 2005, 13:18 GMT
New type medics 'to free doctors'
The new medics would work between nurse and doctor level
A new breed of medics working between doctor and nurse level are to be rolled out across the NHS, ministers announce.

Medical care practitioners will work in both GP practices and hospitals to carry out medical assessments and diagnoses, and prescribe drugs.

The posts are being created to free up doctors for more complex work and to regulate the growing pool of health care support workers.

It is envisaged there will be about 3,000 of the new medics in the NHS.

However, it will be up to local health bosses to decide how many and where to employ them.

Role - Work in hospitals, GP surgeries and walk in centres providing diagnoses, medical assessments and recommendations for treatment. Those working in the community may also get prescribing powers
Training - The medics will undergo a two-year training programme equivalent to masters level. Those already working within the NHS in some capacity may be able to do a shorter course
Numbers - It will be up to local health bosses to decide where to employ them, but it is envisaged about 3,000 will be employed across the NHS

In hospitals, they would generally work alongside junior doctors seeing patients on A&E and general wards and deciding if they need to see a consultant.

In the community, it is envisaged the medics will work alongside GPs or in walk-in centres, but they will need to be supervised at all levels by a doctor.

The proposals, which are going out for consultation, have been drawn up by a government steering group including the Royal College of Physicians and Royal College of GPs.

The position has been modelled on physician assistants (PAs) which have been operating in the US for 40 years and is partly designed to help reduce doctor working hours to meet EU limits.

A handful of PAs are working in the NHS, but in recent years there has been a boom in various doctor support posts such as emergency care practitioners and surgical care practitioners.


Some of these will have to undergo extra training to meet the new requirements, but the government is also hoping to attract new people to the NHS.

Dr Mary Armitage, of the Royal College of Physicians, said: "One of the reasons we became involved in the project was because of concerns about the plethora of unregulated health care support workers.

"These roles have evolved across the country with no common standards or training."

Dr Nigel Sparrow, vice chairman of the Royal College of GPs, added the posts would allow GPs to spend more time with patients with complex needs.

But British Medical Association representatives cast doubt on how useful the medics would be.

Dr Hamish Meldrum, chairman of the BMA's GPs committee, said senior nurses were already doing a lot of routine work to free up doctors and he "would need a lot of convincing" that the new role would be of added benefit.

And Dr Jo Hilbourne, chairman of the junior doctors committee, said while there was scope for others to do some of the work doctors did in hospital, she was concerned about the limits of their training.

The government said patients would not be prevented seeing a doctor if they wanted.

Health Minister Lord Warner said: "The NHS is working at its best and most efficient when every member of the team is working at the peak of their skills."

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