Physician Associates pilot

We are working with NHS England to lead a pilot scheme to evaluate the potential for Physician Associates (PAs) to practice within ophthalmology.

What we are doing

We remain committed to developing and promoting the highest standards of patient care in ophthalmology.

Hospital eye services across the country are now struggling more than ever with capacity and a lack of staff. We have undertaken – and continue to undertake – significant work to increase the number of training places within ophthalmology.

NHS England is funding a pilot scheme to explore the feasibility of the PA role in ophthalmology. We are currently undecided about the role of the PA and have made no commitment to introducing the role, which is why we are involved in this pilot. Our commitment at this stage – as the lead for the speciality – is to run the exploration into the feasibility of the role.

At the end of the pilot, the college will decide whether or not to support PAs as part of the profession. If we decide not to, individual trusts could still go ahead and employ PAs. If we do not think it is appropriate to proceed, we may still offer recommendations and provide a framework.

We understand there are concerns among college members and other groups of professionals, and we will make every effort to address and assuage these concerns.

We will ensure clear, up-to-date information about the pilot is always available to members, and we will provide regular updates on its progress.

Why we are doing it

We are doing this because it enables us – as the lead for the speciality – to provide a framework for a PA pilot.

By leading the pilot, we can shape what the role of a PA could be within a trust and provide a consistent standard for anyone taking up the role anywhere in England. If we were not involved, this consistent approach would not apply as individual trusts could set their own framework.

Practical details of the pilot

The pilot scheme will run for one year, starting in November 2023.

Five NHS trusts in England are taking part, and there are eight posts available. Participating trusts will undertake the recruitment process for the appointment of the PAs in their trust.

It is entirely funded by NHS England and the trusts. There is no financial cost to the College – it is not being funded by membership fees.

About physician associates

PAs are generalist healthcare professionals, who work alongside doctors and provide medical care as an integral part of the multidisciplinary team.

Physician associates work within a defined scope of practice and limits of competence.