Unqualified Physician Associates and the Patient Safety Threat
Physician associates, often referred to as ‘cut-price doctors,’ at the Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust (LTHT) have illegally ordered more than 1,000 hospital scans, raising concerns among doctors who label them a ‘direct threat to patient safety.’
Illegal Scan Orders Raise Patient Safety Concerns
Unregulated physician associates working for LTHT, responsible for seven hospitals, including Leeds General Infirmary, and Leeds Children’s Hospital, ordered 1,168 scans involving ionising radiation, such as X-rays and CTs.
These scans can only be legally ordered by qualified healthcare professionals, raising significant patient safety concerns.
Patient Deaths and Serious Injuries Linked to Physician Associates’ Mistakes
Amid ongoing debates about the expansion of roles for physician associates, previous incidents where PAs’ mistakes led to patient deaths or serious injuries are highlighted.
Examples include Emily Chesterton, 30, who died in 2022 after a PA dismissed a blood clot as anxiety, and Norman Jopling, 79, who suffered a brain bleed after a PA downplayed his headaches.
Doctors Condemn Expansion of Physician Associate Roles
Dr. Tom Sharp, working for LTHT, condemns the ‘direct threat to patient safety’ posed by physician associates acting beyond their qualifications.
Concerns about PAs acting as doctors without the necessary training and legal entitlement to order tests are heightened.
System Error Blamed, Doctors Demand Immediate Action
LTHT blames a ‘system error’ for the illegal scan orders, claiming it has been rectified. Dr. Sharp calls for immediate answers from the Trust regarding how this could have happened repeatedly.
Doctors express their concern about the expanding use of PAs, with the government aiming to recruit 10,000 PAs in the next 15 years.
Physician Associates Under Scrutiny: GMC to Publish Guidelines
The General Medical Council (GMC) is expected to publish guidelines on regulating physician associates, who currently cannot be held responsible for their mistakes.
Doctors criticize the GMC for dismissing concerns over PAs, and a BMA survey indicates that over half of doctors believe PAs are increasing their workloads.
Illegal Scan Orders Uncovered through Freedom of Information Request
Paramedic lecturer Chris Pritchard and junior doctor Eilidh Garrett uncovered the illegal scan orders through a Freedom of Information request, leading to revelations of a significant number of unauthorized referrals by PAs.
Questions arise about the extent of this issue in other hospitals.
Trust Admits System Error, Investigation Underway
LTHT admits to a ‘system error’ and claims that an internal audit has been triggered to investigate the illegal scan orders.
The issue has been reported to the Care Quality Commission (CQC), and the trust insists that no incidents of patient harm have been reported in relation to these unauthorized referrals.
Calls for Stricter Regulation of Physician Associates
As legislation is underway to regulate PAs under the GMC, concerns grow among doctors about blurring lines and the need for PAs to strictly support, not replace, doctors. Dr. Magnus Harrison, Chief Medical Officer at Leeds Teaching Hospitals, acknowledges the system error, emphasizing that it has been fixed, and assures that no patient harm has been reported.Share on Facebook «||» Share on Twitter «||» Share on Reddit «||» Share on LinkedIn