The University of Birmingham has been training Physician Associates (formerly Physician Assistants) since January 2008. As one of the longest-running programmes in the country, we are delighted to offer this opportunity for graduates to make a valuable contribution to the nation’s health. We work in partnership with hospitals and practices in the Midlands and beyond.
Physician Associate (formerly known as Physician Assistant) is a rapidly growing healthcare role in the UK, working alongside doctors in hospitals and in GP surgeries. Physician Associates support doctors in the diagnosis and management of patients. They are trained to perform a number of roles including taking medical histories, performing examinations, analysing test results, and diagnosing illnesses under the direct supervision of a doctor.
The development of the profession has been led by the Department of Health and has involved the Royal Colleges of Physicians and of General Practitioners as well as the profession itself through the former UK Association of Physician Associates (UKAPA) which is now the Faculty of Physician Associates at the Royal College of Physicians.
University of Birmingham staff has taken a key role in the development of the programme at a national as well as a regional level in response to need to be identified by local healthcare providers. Successful completion of the programme will qualify you to practise as a Physician Associate in the UK.
To understand what a Physician Associate does on a day-to-day basis, Health Education England has produced this informative Day in the Life of a Physician Associate
We also run a flexible MSc Physician Associate programme for those who already have their Postgraduate Diploma from the UK or Irish institution.
Please note: the British Physician Associate programme does not qualify you to work in the USA.
The course leaders regard the integration of theory and practice as fundamental to clinical learning.
- This course is two, full time, calendar years in duration, each lasting approximately 48 weeks, plus an additional month. You can expect to be studying 50+ hours per week.
- The theory is learned mostly through case/problem-based learning and you will experience medicine in both hospital and community attachments.
- The rich ethnic and socio-economic diversity of the 5.5 million strong West Midlands population offers unrivalled opportunities for clinical learning, with placements seeking to optimise this.
- Right from the beginning, you will have contact with patients, as, during the first term, students are placed for up to five days of clinical experience within a General Practice in either the West Midlands or beyond.
- This is followed by a fourteen-week hospital attachment in the second term, and a further few days of General Practice in the third term Students will use the cases collected during the second term as the basis of their learning within the third term.
- The second-year continues the problem-based learning approach and integrates further learning and placements in Acute and Emergency Medicine, Child Health General Practice, Mental Health, Reproductive Health and Surgery.
- Throughout the course, you will receive teaching in a variety of forms, including lectures, seminars, tutorials, group work, and bedside demonstrations.
- Simulation is fundamental to this course, using simulated patients (who will teach you communication and examination skills, including gynaecological and urological examination). The simulation aims both to prepare you for the clinical world and to train you in a safe, non-threatening environment.
- Progression exams are undertaken at the nine months mark, and again at twenty-three months into the course. Students are required to pass both sets of examinations prior to entry into the National Assessment.
- Assessment types will include Multiple Choice Question (MCQ) paper(s), Objective Structured Clinical Examinations (OSCE), Case Write-Ups, Presentations and Professional Behaviour sign-offs.
All students will be registered with the Faculty of Physician Associates at the Royal College of Physicians. Graduates currently join a Managed Voluntary Register.
Why Study this Course?
- Make a real difference to patient care and the NHS and earn a good salary (most graduates are on NHS Agenda for Change Band 7 (starting at £31,383 p. a.) or higher
- Be part of this new and rapidly growing UK profession and follow a career path which has already had proven success in the US (there are over 86,000 Physician Associates practising there)
- Pursue a profession that is supported by the NHS and the Department of Health: over 30 hospitals employ PAs across the UK and the numbers are growing fast
- Our graduates are working all across the UK (although about half have stayed in the West Midlands) and in a wide range of specialities including general medicine, acute medicine, cardiology, paediatrics, breast surgery, trauma and orthopaedics, mental health, emergency medicine, and General Practice.
2:1 in a Life Sciences Degree - we want our students to start the course with a good knowledge of biological processes, cell functions and cell interactions. Some examples of degrees we regard as generally suitable are:
- Biochemistry/Medical Biochemistry
- Biomedical Science
- Human Biology/Physiology/Pharmacology
- Medical Science
- Psychology (with a biological orientation)
A 2:2 in a Life Sciences Degree may be considered with considerable clinical experience. If you have a Health Sciences diploma (e.g. Nursing) with extensive clinical experience, we may also consider you.
We welcome applications from people with disabilities. However, the requirements of the Physician Associate role and of the training mean that candidates must be able to demonstrate certain capacities. It is not possible to omit any part of the curriculum and all students must, therefore, have adequate vision, hearing, mobility, and manual dexterity, and dyslexia must not impair the rapid and accurate reading required in clinical practice. The requirements are explained in more detail in the Code of Conduct.
- The UK Government Health Authorities require that students working in the clinical area must be screened to ensure that they are not carriers of the Hepatitis B virus.
- All applicant who accepts an offer will need to:
- Undertake a screening blood test for Hepatitis B
- If negative, start a course of immunisation
- Thereafter provide certified evidence of immunity
- Prospective students are strongly advised to take the blood test in good time. Applicants who are Hepatitis B positive or refuse to have the blood test may be refused admission.
- Please note: in response to guidelines published by the Department of Health, students on the University of Birmingham Physician Associate programme will not be expected to undertake, or be involved in, exposure-prone procedures (EPPs).
All applicants that we are considering for an offer are interviewed and, at an interview, we will assess your communication skills. As a student, you will have substantial patient contact and all students must be able to communicate clearly, precisely and professionally with patients.
We also require evidence of English proficiency from all applicants whose first language is not English, such as IELTS for which we will require an average score of 7.5, with no less than 7.0 in any band.
If you need help with your English language skills then support is available.
Birmingham-trained Physician Associates have been very successful in the NHS jobs market with most of our graduates on NHS Agenda for Change Band 7 (starting at £31,383 p. a.) or higher.
Our graduates are working all across the UK (although about half have stayed in the West Midlands) and in a wide range of specialities including general medicine, acute medicine, cardiology, paediatrics, breast surgery, trauma and orthopaedics, mental health, emergency medicine and General Practice. Many have also chosen to go into teaching and research (part-time while maintaining clinical duties), with five of our graduates currently teaching here at Birmingham.
The number of NHS Trusts and Practices seeking Physician Associates (and the average number working for each Trust/Practice) has increased rapidly throughout the last few years, and we would expect that number to continue to increase at a similar pace over the next few years.