Regulation of physician and anaesthesia associates marks welcome first step in modernising GMC processes, says MDU

A consultation and draft legislation published today giving the General Medical Council (GMC) powers to regulate physician associates and anaesthesia associates is a welcome first step in modernising regulation.

The Medical Defence Union (MDU) welcomed the announcement but said it was disappointed that this would mean initially a two-tier system of regulation, with doctors regulated under the existing, outdated regime.

Dr Hugh Stewart, MDU Professional services director, said:

“Today’s publication by the Department of Health and Social Care of draft legislation to enable the GMC to regulate physician associates (PAs) and anaesthesia associates (AAs) is welcome. It is only right that these skilled and knowledgeable professionals should be regulated by the GMC.

“However, it is disappointing that this will mean that initially PAs and AAs will be regulated differently by the GMC to doctors, under a much more modern regulatory regime.

“We will be examining the new proposals very closely because this will be a template for the modern regulatory system which will eventually be put in place for doctors. Meanwhile, that has been delayed until 2024/5 at the earliest, when originally it was promised doctors would be at the front of the queue to benefit.

“Last year, the MDU coordinated a letter with other medical leaders to the Secretary of State for Health, calling on the government not to delay fundamental reforms needed to modernise the GMC’s processes.

“The Department has said that reforming the GMC’s wider regulatory framework for doctors remains a key priority. We urge them to urgently publish the legislation needed to modernise doctors’ regulation. A fitness to practise process is one of the most stressful experiences a doctor can have in their career, and current legislation is crying out for change.”