Are Medical Assistants Qualified Enough?
A recent front page report in the Daily Mail advised that there is set to be an influx of medical assistants with little more than two years medical training implemented into the NHS System.
It has been reported that these Medical Assistants will be able to diagnose patients, suggest treatment and complete minor surgery. This model which was introduced in the UK as a pilot scheme in 2013 with only two universities offering the two year course, is based upon the physician associate scheme from the US. There are now in excess of 27 establishments offering this course in an attempt to meet the health secretaries’ target of 1000 medical assistants working in practice by 2020.
The reasoning behind the scheme is of course to reduce waiting times, free up doctors and surgeons to be able to manage more complex conditions and to cut costs. Studies based upon the US model found that the medical Assistants were just as good as the doctors in handling non-complex medical problems and we hope that this will be the same for the UK model.
The NHS is not trialling anything that hasn’t been done quite successfully in other professions. The education system for example have had massive success with the implementation of teaching assistants and such like; care homes have employed non-qualified members of staff for years who have trained on the job and have proved to be an excellent carer and credit to the establishment, in deed the legal profession has also adopted new routes to be a solicitor, advocate and barrister. The list is endless and the success has been significant why should it be any different with doctors?
Hopefully it will not. Hopefully the scheme will see an improvement within the struggling NHS system that we are faced with today. Hopefully patient relations and patients’ health will continue to improve with the introduction of this scheme. But what happens if it doesn’t?
The Medical Assistants as they are to be known will be expected to meet the same standard as a reasonably competent doctor. This means that as they are undertaking the work of a doctor they will be judged the same as a doctor if something was to go wrong. And just as a qualified doctor would have to, the medical assistant will be held to account if errors have been made. Their lack of qualifications in the field does not diminish your rights as a patient and your rights in the Courts.
If you or a loved one have been affected by medical treatment or advice provided by a Medical Assistant or a doctor, please contact our specialist medical negligence team for a free initial consultation and advice.