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BACKGROUND: Mid-level practitioners (MLPs), including physician associates (PAs) and advanced nurse practitioners (ANPs), have emerged to address workforce shortages in the UK and perform specific roles in relation to population needs. This has resulted in new ways of working and changes to established professional hierarchies. We conducted a study to investigate the career development, competencies, effectiveness, perceptions, and regulation of PAs and ANPs, with the aim of understanding ways to effectively integrate MLPs into the NHS workforce. METHODS: We conducted a systematic scoping review following PRISMA guidelines. Embase, Medline, the Cochrane database, Pubmed, and CINAHL databases were searched, using terms relating to PAs and ANPs in the UK. A total of 128 studies (60 on PAs and 68 on ANPs) were included in the final analysis. A narrative synthesis, guided by the pre-defined themes and emerging themes, was conducted to bring together the findings. RESULTS: PAs are educated on a medical model with basic medical skills but lack formal professional regulation and do not have prescribing rights. ANPs are educated on a nurse model with enhanced skills that depend on roles within specific specialities, and their governance is mostly employer-led. PAs are primarily employed in secondary care. ANPs are employed widely in both primary and secondary care. No defined career progression exists for PAs. In contrast, becoming an ANP is a form of career progression within nursing. Both roles were regarded as cost-effective in comparison to doctors performing simple tasks. PAs were less understood compared to ANPs and received a mixed reception from colleagues, which sometimes undermined their professional identity, whereas ANPs were mostly welcomed by colleagues. CONCLUSIONS: Potential ways to better integrate PAs and ANPs into the NHS workforce include further initiatives by regulatory bodies and the NHS to create more awareness and clearer role definitions for MLPs, outline potential for career progression, offer transparency with regard to remuneration, and introduction of prescribing rights. Future research might include more cadres of MLPs and explore the international literature.

Original publication




Journal article


Hum Resour Health

Publication Date





Advanced nurse practitioners, National Health Service, Non-physician clinician, Physician associate, Task shifting, Atrial Natriuretic Factor, Humans, Nurse Practitioners, Physicians, State Medicine, United Kingdom