Across the NHS Physician Associates work to support in the diagnosis and management of people on wards or in GP practices. They work closely with doctors but also support the work of nurses and other staff such as support workers.
Traditionally PAs work in what in the NHS would be called acute settings, in places that deal with physical, rather than mental health. In fact, of an estimated 2,500 PAs working in the role in the UK, only 80 work in mental health settings in the NHS in England, and eight of those PAs work at Sheffield Health and Social Care NHS Foundation Trust (SHSC).
Carolyn Gouldbourne and Eleanor Senior, pictured, are two of those eight and are keen to stress the value that PAs bring to a mental health Trust such as SHSC.
They are well placed to make sure service users receive continuity of care on the ward, an especially valuable asset given that treating a person for a mental illness is often complex and requires different types of care from different professionals including doctors, nurses, counsellors and occupational therapists. In amongst all this a PA can be a regular presence for service users, helping them to understand their medical needs and be at the centre of the care they receive.
Alongside this, Carolyn and Ellie, like their PA colleagues, are trained physical health practitioners and bring those skills to the settings they work in on a daily basis. That means that service users who need treatment for their physical health as well as their mental health receive bespoke, sensitive care that is specific to their individual needs.
As PAs with varied backgrounds, they’re well placed to help teams provide rounded treatment for service users. Carolyn studied neuroscience and pharmacology and Ellie has studied psychology at undergraduate level and has previously worked as a Physician Associate in acute and emergency medicine.
Carolyn and Ellie have recently taken on expanded roles as Lead Physician Associates. Their new roles mean they’ll be doing even more to pioneer the role of PAs in mental health Trusts across South Yorkshire and beyond, while working to embed and expand the profession at SHSC.
Carolyn recently blogged about what PAs bring to mental health care. Read it here.