St Peter's Hospital, Chertsey
St Peter’s Hospital, in Surrey, recognised three years ago that the workforce in general surgery was insufficient in number, particularly after foundation doctors were taken out of surgery. The colorectal and urology teams decided that they needed to develop their own workforce. The Medical Director had come across physician assistants in the United States and was struck by the high calibre of the people attracted to those roles. It was felt that the UK equivalent – physician associates (PAs) – could offer a solution to St Peter’s. The Medical Director said: ‘The hospital likes the idea of PAs because it’s a more stable workforce.’ The first PA was appointed in 2014. There are now four, covering the colorectal and urology departments, which are the two busiest surgical teams in the hospital.
At other sites we visited, there was a good deal of uncertainty over how PAs can be used within surgical teams. The experience at St Peter’s and also at St George’s illuminates the positive impact they can have, both on the wards, but also in theatres and clinics.
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