The Government has announced new plans to modernise the regulatory environment in health and life sciences, we examine the potential benefit to ensure NHS pressures are alleviated and life sciences can achieve its potential.
The UK government is set to modernise regulatory legislation to increase patient safety and support frontline healthcare staff. With plans to streamline the system, the government has announced aims to expand the role of medical support staff in the National Health Service (NHS) and relieve pressure on general practitioners (GPs) while improving access to services.
The new legislation will aim to help regulate thousands of medical associate professions, potentially extending their roles, including prescribing responsibilities, to physician associates (PAs) and anesthesia associates (AAs) to reduce the burden on other frontline staff. Over 3,500 PAs and 160 AAs are already working in the NHS, and with regulation in place, their potential to contribute to the workforce will increase, particularly in primary care.
The government is launching a consultation on draft legislation today, which will provide the General Medical Council (GMC) with powers to regulate PAs and AAs for the first time. These professions support doctors and surgeons in providing medical care and anaesthetic services to patients.
The Government’s plans
Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, Steve Barclay, said that the modernisation of regulatory legislation is aimed at “harnessing the full potential of roles such as physician and anaesthesia associates to provide the highest quality care for patients and relieve pressure on the NHS”.
He further stated that the proposed legislation could expand prescribing powers, free up GPs, improve access to appointments and reduce pressure on hospitals.
The wider proposals also aim to streamline the system to enable healthcare regulators to update their day-to-day regulatory processes and standards quickly, without requiring parliamentary or Privy Council approval. The proposed legislation would help ensure consistent powers for each healthcare professional regulator, facilitating collaboration and sharing of best practices across different professions.
PAs and AAs typically undergo two years of post-graduate training. PAs diagnose illnesses, perform diagnostic and therapeutic procedures, and develop treatment management plans under the supervision of doctors, while AAs provide care for patients before, during, and after their operation or procedure, including taking a history, performing physical examinations, and using diagnostic data to identify relevant problems.
The government aims to increase the number of training places for AAs and PAs, with 1,000 PAs trained each year from 2023 to 2024 and 250 AAs trained each year from 2024 to 2025.
The proposals will provide a template for future reforms aimed at supporting the NHS and improving access for patients. The government will publish a workforce strategy this year to recruit and retain more staff, with independently verified forecasts for the number of doctors, nurses, and other professionals needed in 5, 10, and 15 years’ time.
The consultation launched in March 2021 received over 500 responses from individuals, organisations, healthcare professionals, and members of the public.
The proposed regulatory changes should help maximise the potential of medical support staff, ensuring they work to their full potential and play a vital role in the NHS’s future. With an ageing population and an increasing demand for healthcare services, the Government’s aim to modernise regulatory legislation is a timely and important step towards supporting the NHS and improving patient outcomes.
With record backlogs and thousands of healthcare professionals on recent strikes, the importance of ensuring regulation supports the NHS and life sciences is vital. Curia’s NHS Innovation and Life Sciences Commission has produced a series of recommendations in the 2022 report. With Co-Chair Lord O’Shaughnessy leading the UK clinical trials review, get in touch with email@example.com to find out more. For further reference, please see the 2022 launch event below: