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Train to be a doctors' assistant

11 Jul 2007

Train to be a doctors' assistant Students can now train to be doctors' assistants, as the first UK universities have launched courses for the role.

Although the job title is common in the US, the universities of Birmingham, Wolverhampton and Warwick with Coventry are the first to offer the course in the UK, from January 2008.

The two-year Postgraduate Diploma in Physician Assistant Studies will train students to take medical histories, perform examinations, analyse test results and even diagnose illnesses.

Jim Parle, professor of general practice at the University of Birmingham's medical school, emphasised that assistants would "always support the work of doctors, not replace them".

As reported by the Press Association, he explained: "This new profession will supplement the existing NHS workforce, increasing the number of frontline clinicians available to treat patients.

"However, having an additional clinically trained member of staff has the potential to really benefit patient care.

"Certainly the experiences of General Practices which are already using US trained Physicians' Assistants have been very positive."

The course might prove suitable for those students interested in medicine and health work, but who don't want to undertake full medical degrees.

As well as classroom-based learning, the courses will also offer around 1,600 hours of clinical training to each participant, in settings including general hospitals and mental health facilities.

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