Patients should not have to wait as long for a doctor’s appointment thanks to the latest attempt to tackle North Staffordshire’s GP crisis.
Twelve so-called physician associates are being brought in on 12-month contracts to help the area’s under-pressure GPs.
They support doctors in the ‘diagnosis and management of patients’ and it means some people will get quicker appointments.
But critics have called for safeguards to make sure the new recruits are not making decisions above their stations.
An NHS report states: “To help address the challenge of recruiting doctors, Staffordshire and Stoke-on-Trent is investing in physician associates. The people in these roles are graduates who have undertaken post-graduate training and are under the supervision of a doctor.”
Each physician associate will spend three days a week working in general practice and the remaining two days with an NHS trust, which could include the University Hospitals of North Midlands NHS Trust or North Staffordshire Combined Healthcare NHS Trust.
North Staffordshire has been blighted by a GP recruitment crisis for years. A survey in 2016 revealed 15 of the area’s 88 medical practices are on the brink of collapse.
Longton-based GP Doctor James McCarthy, who operates out of Mayfield Surgery, said: “Anything that helps the pressures on primary care is a good thing and should be supported.
“This idea has come from America and I do think it will help. But they will be of limited use and this might be better suited to a hospital rather than a local doctors.”
Health campaigner Ian Syme has been left ‘sceptical’ over the scheme.
He said: “I am concerned about how much they will be able to help. They need to be able to say when they cannot do something and that it needs to be done by a GP.
“There needs to be safeguarding so they don’t endanger patients. Any help is welcome but this seems like a quick fix that cannot just become the norm because we still need GPs.”