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Speaking to MI, Ms Mannion said she had not yet seen an evaluation of the RCSI-spearheaded pilot programme at Beaumont Hospital, Dublin, which has been submitted by the RCSI to the Department of Health.
However, she added: “I think it’s a positive development. And I think it has a lot to offer. We are awaiting the evaluation before there’s any commitment to further roll-out.”
“I think anything that helps us with more efficient deployment of resources and of our staff [is positive]; ultimately, it is about patient need.”
The HSE’s National Doctors Training and Planning (NDTP) unit has previously identified PAs as a potential replacement for surgical SHO service posts.
The pilot at Beaumont began in 2015, with four PAs employed in the surgical directorate. The PAs were not regulated by an Irish healthcare regulator but maintained their home registration (US/Canada) and were subject to performance reviews twice a year with their supervising consultant surgeon.
However, currently, there are still PAs working at Beaumont. A spokesperson for RCSI Hospitals said two PAs are employed in Beaumont and they are graduates of the RCSI PA programme.
In 2016, the RCSI launched Ireland’s first postgraduate course to qualify PAs. The tuition fees are €12,000 per year.
A Department of Health spokesperson told MI: “RCSI submitted its own report evaluating the physician associate pilot and the Department is currently considering the report.”
PAs are dependent healthcare professionals trained in the medical model and who work under consultant or GP supervision. They undertake medical histories, physical exams, interpret tests, diagnose and treat illnesses and give preventive health advice. In the US, they have prescriptive authority. Generally, they have prior healthcare experience before undergoing postgraduate training to qualify as PAs.