Intended for healthcare professionals

Rapid response to:

Education And Debate

The physician assistant: would the US model meet the needs of the NHS?

BMJ 2001; 323 doi: (Published 24 November 2001) Cite this as: BMJ 2001;323:1244

Rapid Response:

The introduction of Asst. Physicains will help improve workforce problems in the UK

Dear Editor,

I am pleased that Hutchinson et al(1) have reopened the debate on the
possible introduction of the Assistant Physician grade in the UK.

For the last four years we have been involved with teaching assistant
physicians from Kentucky University, USA. There are two intakes a year and
we have developed a specific curriculum for them during their paediatric
module in Walsall - each one lasting two months.

The point that does not come through clearly in this excellent paper
is that although these students are very motivated and committed, they are
in fact much older than our average medical students and do have a primary
degree, usually in a science discipline. I feel that in specialties such
as paediatrics (and Accident & Emergency)where patients have access
usually through the GP onto our Assessment Observation Ward, a ‘doctor’
albeit an assistant physician, trained specifically to deal with
assessment and emergency care of such children would go a long way in
providing permanency, continuity of care and above all maintain morale.

There are many who want a stable life style earlier on in their
career, and do not want to enter general practice or follow a career path
offered by hospitals.

In my opinion I have no doubt that there is a ‘niche’ for such a
grade in the United Kingdom which will help alleviate work force problems
we presently have and improve morale. The issue of service vis a vis
training of Juniors will partly be helped by this innovation. There will
undoubtedly be professional rivalries but these are not

Abdul Rashid Gatrad OBE

Consultant Paediatrician, Manor Hospital, Walsall

Asst Professor(Pead) University of Kentucky, USA

Correspondence to:

Prof. A R Gatrad,
Dept. of Paediatrics,
Manor Hospital,
W Midlands


1 Hutchinson L, Marks T, Pittilo M. The physician assistant: Would
the US model meet the needs of the NHS? BMJ 2001; 323:1244-1247

Competing interests: No competing interests

18 January 2002
A R Gatrad
Consultant Paediatrician
Manor Hospital, Walsall. WS2 9PS