The Physician Assistant (Physician Associate) is a clinical role working across traditional vocational boundaries but always under the supervision of a doctor. The doctor remains responsible for the care of patients and tailors the Physician Assistant’s scope of practice according to their skills and the patient profile.
The role was subject to a demonstration in order to assess its potential contribution to the existing New Zealand health workforce.
Stage One of the demonstration, in the hospital environment, originally took place in Counties Manukau DHB.
Stage Two of the demonstration took place in the primary care setting, and built on the findings of the Stage One evaluation. This report, by independent consultants Synergia, evaluates this second phase.
The report addresses the impact of the role on the GP practices and rural hospital where the demonstration took place. It identifies that there were no serious clinical concerns about patient safety during the demonstration.
While the report does not address the broader economic considerations of investment by the sector in the development of the role, it identifies economic benefits to employers in maintaining the Physician Assistant role. The report notes that the role has a particular value in regional or remote locations, subject to appropriate supervision.
It also notes that the full economic and service benefit of the role would require appropriate prescribing rights under the Medicines Act 1981 and prior regulation under the Health Practitioners Competence Assurance Act 2003.
The Ministry will evaluate any applications for regulation of the Physician Assistant (Physician Associate) role according to the same criteria and processes employed for all applications.