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Doctors sign letter expressing MAPs fears

Life at Work
By Tim Tonkin

Document warns policy-makers and Government failed to acknowledge medical profession’s concerns 

More than 13,000 doctors have endorsed a letter to political party leaders expressing ‘grave concern’ with the ongoing use of MAPs (medical associate professions) in the NHS.

Thousands of doctors have signed an open letter published today by the BMA outlining the professions’ fears with the use of MAPs in the health service, a situation which association council chair Philip Banfield described as a ‘patient safety scandal threatening to engulf the NHS’.

Addressed to the leaders of the Conservative, Labour and Liberal Democrat parties, the letter warns that policy-makers and the Government had, to date, failed to acknowledge the medical profession’s concerns with MAPs.

It calls on the three parties to commit to six principles including the introduction of a national safe scope of practice for MAPs and an urgent review of the long-term workforce plan to determine how MAPs can be safely deployed within the NHS.

The letter, which follows the BMA’s announcement on 24 June that it is pursuing legal action against the GMC on how it plans to regulate physician and anaesthesia associates, further calls for a halt on giving MAPs prescribing responsibilities.

‘Asleep at the helm’

It also urges the three party leaders to back the BMA’s call for an amendment to the Anaesthesia Associates and Physician Associates Order 2024, requiring MAPs to be placed under the remit of a suitable regulator and be given professional titles which ‘protect patients from being misled’.

BMA council chair Philip Banfield accused those responsible for the deployment of MAPs as having been ‘asleep at the helm’ and called for accountability and transparency if the current ‘policy disaster’ was to be rectified.

He added that, while these staff had an important role to play in delivering healthcare, the approach to their use and regulation was undermining the status of doctors and the safety of patients.

He said: ‘Doctors in their thousands are today demanding that the party leaders take notice of the patient safety scandal threatening to engulf the NHS.

‘Policy-makers have been asleep at the helm for years, letting us drift directly into a dangerous situation where the skills of doctors are being demeaned, devalued and even replaced. We will not let the new government formed on Friday say it was not warned.

ARM 2022 Phil Banfield
BANFIELD: Skills of doctors being demeaned

‘We have always said MAPs have a part to play in NHS teams, through assisting doctors so that they can undertake the work for which we are uniquely trained. This is not how their deployment has proceeded in reality.

‘Instead, doctors in many places find their own time compromised by the requirements of supervising MAPs. Doctors are being replaced on rotas by MAPs around the county, leading to alarming situations where patients are being treated by unqualified staff. In general practice, at a time when patients are desperate to see their GP, the money that could be used to employ them is instead reserved for PAs and other less-qualified staff, leaving many GPs struggling to even find work.’

Patient assurances

He added: ‘Politicians must turn this policy disaster around. We need visible accountability, transparency and a proper scope of practice that can reassure patients they are always being seen by the right professional with formally assessed qualifications, skills and expertise for the task.

‘After an election campaign dominated by the parlous state of the NHS any new government will be looking to reassure the public that the NHS is safe in their hands. Doctors today have made very clear one way they can do that.’

Read the letter