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‘Cut-price’ medics lured to the NHS from the US with promises of long holidays touring Europe

This article was taken from: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2017/09/18/cut-price-medics-lured-nhs-us-promises-long-holidays-touring/

‘Cut-price’ medics are being lured to the UK from the United States with promises of long holidays touring Europe, in a bid to plug widespread staffing shortages.

 The NHS is attempting to train or recruit up to 3,200 “physician associates” who can carry out minor operations and carry out ward rounds, after just two years’ training.

Medical leaders have issued new guidance in order to expand the programme, amid shortages of medics.

The new role is not supposed to substitute for a doctor, though the associates can carry out some of the tasks they normally do.

Senior medics have raised concerns that the new profession is unregulated, while patients’ groups fear risks if workers end up taking on tasks beyond their capabilities.

Now the NHS is offering relocation packages to those who have trained in the roles abroad.

The National Physician Associate Expansion Programme is particularly targeting the US, which has more than 100,000 such workers.

The NHS’ generous holiday allowance would allow American workers ample time to visit historic sites and exciting cities across Britain, and enjoy jaunts around Europe, it says.

The programme has drawn up plans to recruit “a large number” of physician assistants from the US and place them in four regions in England for two years.

Why is the NHS under so much pressure?

An ageing population. There are one million more people over the age of 65 than five years ago

Cuts to budgets for social care. While the NHS budget has been protected, social services for home helps and other care have fallen by 11 per cent in five years

This has caused record levels of bedblocking, meaning elderly people with no medical need to be in hospital are stuck there. Latest quarterly show occupancy rates are the highest they have ever been at this stage of the year, while days lost to bedblocking are up by one third in a year

Meanwhile rising numbers of patients are turning up in A&E – around four million more in the last decade, partly fuelled by the ageing population

Shortages of GPs mean waiting times to see a doctor have got longer, and many argue that access to doctors since a 2004 contract removed responsibility for out of hours care

American healthcare workers promised up to £1,000 towards relocation costs, and 41 days paid holiday.

“This means that you will have ample time to explore the rest of the UK where there are many fascinating and historic sites and exciting cities and towns,” the recruitment material says.

“The UK is also perfectly placed for taking trips short trips overseas to other countries. You can reach most European destinations in just a few hours from London which makes the UK a fantastic travel hub from which to explore Europe and even further afield.”

New guidance from the Royal College of Physicians (RCP) says some US-trained assistants may also be offered a free flight home every one or two years.

There are currently 350 physician associates working in the health service, with plans to introduce up to 3,200 by 2020, with an extra 1,000 a year after that,

The starting salary of £30,000 is half that of a newly-qualified GP.

Joyce Robins, from Patient Concern, said: “It sounds like they are trying to plug the gaps with second-class medics. It is most unsatisfactory and disappointing from a patient point of view.

“I fear it sounds like dumbing down the medical profession”, she added, describing the workers as “doctors on the cheap”.

A Department of Health spokesman said: “Physician associates play an important role supporting doctors and nurses, allowing them to spend more time with their patients.

 “We are committed to the principle of proportionate regulation of health and care professionals and plan to consult on the regulation of physician associates in 2017.”