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Britain begging US physician assistants to fill staff

American physician assistants are being enticed over to the United Kingdom amid staffing shortages – with promises of long vacations in Europe.

Physician associates, medical professionals who assist doctors in making a diagnosis and analyzing test results, train for two years, roughly a quarter of the training of a doctor. 

It means that while they are qualified to prescribe and diagnose, it must all be done under supervision.

But that is changing in both the US and the UK as both nations struggle with demand for medics. 

The NHS plans to recruit up to 3,200 PAs to perform minor operations and monitor wards – primarily from the US, which has more than 115,000 of them (file image)

Given staff shortages in the US, they are being given more autonomy to prescribe and operate. Now the UK is looking to recruit from the 115,000 US physician assistants. 

The National Health Service (NHS) is offering £1,000 ($1,350) to cover their relocation, 41 days paid vacation a year, and free flights home during holidays.

Ultimately, officials say the plan is to recruit up to 3,200 PAs to perform minor operations and monitor wards.

The move has sparked outrage, with senior medics and patient groups warning it could trigger a slippery slope towards relying on under-qualified transplants to perform essential duties.

British health officials insist the PAs would not be replacing doctors, though they would be allowed to perform the same tasks. 

According to recruitment materials, foreign PAs would earn £30,000 ($40,460) a year.

The pamphlet continues: ‘This means that you will have ample time to explore the rest of the UK where there are many fascinating and historic sites and exciting cities and towns.

‘The UK is also perfectly placed for taking trips short trips overseas to other countries. 

‘You can reach most European destinations in just a few hours from London which makes the UK a fantastic travel hub from which to explore Europe and even further afield.’

The plans come amid similar moves in the US to give PAs more autonomy.

As of this year, there were 115,000 trained physician associates in America, up almost six-fold since 1990, when there were 20,000.

States are increasingly easing restrictions on PAs, primarily allowing them to prescribe almost anything.

Last year, every state made at least one change to legislation that allowed PAs to have more power.  

Doctors who supported the bills insist physician assistants should be allowed more scope as clinicians, since they are already trained to operate, diagnose, prescribe and work with patients.