In May 2024, Healthwatch in Sussex sought experiences of being seen by a Physician’s Associate.

A Physician Associate supports doctors in the diagnosis and management of patients. A detailed explanation of a Physician Associate is available on the NHS website.

By Healthwatch in Sussex
Healthwatch in Sussex

We heard:

65 people from across Sussex shared their views with us.

– A majority of responses (71.9%) understood the difference between a Physician Associate and a Doctor

– Just over half of respondents (53.8%) had been seen or treated by a Physician Associate at a GP Surgery


Respondents to our poll told us they would like to see:


Patients made more aware of the role of a Physician Associate:

“I can’t say because I don’t know if I have seen one”
“I am not always clear who I am meeting, whether it’s a doctor or a PA.”
“I was aware that my surgery at Ship St had at one point a Physician Associate,but I think I was less well informed at that time, so didn’t see them.”


Improved confidence amongst Physician Associates

“The consultation didn’t seem thorough, the PA didn’t seem confident, and I left not really knowing what was wrong with me and not confident in the advice given. I was then later contacted by my GP surgery and asked to go in the day after to be reviewed by a GP as well. There was nothing particularly different in the diagnosis or treatment, but the GP was confident and reassured me. I would ask next time if it was a PA or GP!”


Improved awareness of the need for Physician Associates to check with a Doctor

“I have been trying to get an appointment with my sons GP for some weeks now and although we have had a phone call this was not what we wanted. Previously the appointments were with 2 different nurses and then after the GP phone call we saw Ed the physician associate.

He was very thorough, but he still needed us to wait for 15 minutes as he needed to consult someone (probably the GP) before he could make final recommendations”


GPs remain used instead of a Physician Associate

“I needed antibiotics, so the prescription wasn’t issued at the time. Would far rather see a GP when I know what the problem is, but I do understand they can speed things up for the practice sometimes.”

“Not clear at explanation, didn’t seem confident about what (they were) saying, increased my meds but then didn’t follow through and prescribe.”

“Didn’t fill me with confidence at all, would always ask for GP in future.”


Next steps

As the public champion for local health and care services, Healthwatch will continue to work in partnership with commissioners and providers to monitor the experiences of patients and the public in accessing health and care services locally and explore how ongoing improvements may be delivered.

We will share the attached report with East Sussex County Council, NHS Sussex, Healthwatch England and others to share this insight and encourage its incorporation into future initiatives.


Tell Us Your Experiences 

Please tell us your experiences of local health and care services via our Feedback Centre and let us know how this has been for you. 

We want to hear if it has been good, bad or indifferent.


Help and support with Health and Care 

If you need help or support related to health or care, then please contact our Information & Signposting Service via 

0333 101 4007 or 

View the report

Click the link below to download the report

Healthwatch in Sussex - Physician Associates Poll Results - May 2024 Download File ( )

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