A TRAILBLAZING new role supporting doctors in Worcestershire is to be introduced with a collaboration between the University of Worcester and the organisation running the county's three major hospitals.

Worcestershire Acute Hospitals NHS Trust is working alongside the university's Institute of Health and Society and Health Education West Midlands to introduce a new Msc Physician Associate programme starting this September.

The role - which is common in the USA but a relatively new concept in the UK - involves training in a number of aspects of healthcare. Although physician associates are not fully qualified doctors they are able to take some of the workload off other healthcare workers so they are able to focus more closely on urgent work.

The university's head of applied professional studies Jane Perry said she was excited by the collaboration.

"Physician associates can support doctors in the diagnosis and management of patients and are supervised by doctors," she said.

She said students graduating from a science-related degree will undertake a 27-month training programme.

"The students will learn the skills of clinical diagnosis and patient management across the age span and they will have rotational placements in both Worcester Acute Hospital and into community practice," she said.

“The university welcomes the new development of this role with Worcester Acute Hospitals NHS Trust for trainee practice placements and to welcoming the first students in September.”

Although Worcestershire is leading the way in developing the role, it has been introduced in a small number of other hospitals in the UK in departments such as A&E and acute medical units.

The trust's chief executive Penny Venables said the organisation was working closely with the university to introduce the role.

"This possibility came up about 12 months ago and we were really hot off the blocks saying we want to do it," she said.

"There are less and less junior doctors today so this is important.

"They are trained to do a large amount of work to take on some of the responsibilities of junior doctors."

The introduction of the role comes at a time of significant change for the trust, with an ambitious project currently in progress to reconfigure services in the county, which could result in a new Major Emergency Centre set up at Worcestershire Royal Hospital.

For more information visit www.worcester.ac.uk/discover/physician-associate-msc.html.