Physician Associate Studies PGDip - 2024/5

Awarding body

University of Surrey

Teaching institute

University of Surrey


FHEQ Level 7

Final award and programme/pathway title

PGDip Physician Associate Studies

Subsidiary award(s)

Award Title
PGCert Medical Studies

Modes of study

Route code Credits and ECTS Credits
Full-time PTC56001 120 credits and 60 ECTS credits

QAA Subject benchmark statement (if applicable)

Other internal and / or external reference points

Faculty of Physician Associates at the Royal College of Physicians (FPA at the RCP) is the professional body and sets the National Examinations. There is currently no Regulatory Body, but the legislation to enable the GMC to become the regulator of PAs and PA education has advanced to the final stage and regulation is expected to commence in late 2024. We anticipate that this will become an accredited programme. There is currently a managed voluntary register (MVR) for all Physician Associates working in the UK, held by the FPA at the RCP.

Faculty and Department / School

Faculty of Health and Medical Sciences - School of Health Sciences

Programme Leader

DOULTON Jia (Health Sci.)

Date of production/revision of spec


Educational aims of the programme

  • Train graduates with a first degree in Biosciences, Life Sciences or Health Sciences, or suitable approved programme, to Post-Graduate Diploma level, to function as a qualified Physician Associate (on passing the National Examination).
  • Physician Associates will be able to: Deliver holistic medical care and treatment under defined levels of supervision, in acute and primary care settings in the National Health Service.
  • Physician Associates will be able to: Work effectively with patients and multi-disciplinary healthcare teams from diverse backgrounds.
  • Physician Associates will be able to: Use a patient-centred approach, be expert communicators and ensure patient safety at all times.
  • Physician Associates will be able to: Promote health and well-being on an individual and population basis.
  • Physician Associates will be able to: Engage in reflective practice, work within the limits of their competence and engage actively in lifelong learning and professional development.
  • This training includes the necessary knowledge, skills and professional attitudes needed to work to the medical model, demonstrating safe medical practice, medical competence, compassion, reflective and critical thinking in diagnostic reasoning and clinical management. Graduates will be able to assess, diagnose and manage medical problems competently, consulting with patients presenting with a variety of specified conditions (Appendix 1) on behalf of, and under supervision of a senior experienced doctor. They will be able to understand and demonstrate the principles of safe and effective prescribing.
  • Graduates will be trained to a standard defined by the National Examination for Physician Associates that will enable them to work as Physician Associates in the National Health Service with appropriate accreditation and regulation once these have been decided and implemented.

Programme learning outcomes

Attributes Developed Awards Ref.
Demonstrate knowledge of core competencies to medical conditions met during the two year course (in Primary and Secondary Care placements and coursework), as listed in the Competence and Curriculum Framework for the Physician Assistant, 2012 (Appendix 1). This is with particular relation to the background clinical knowledge required to safely and competently assess, diagnose and manage commonly occurring medical conditions at the standard required of a Physician Associate (ie under medical supervision) K PGDip
Ability to summarise the structure and function of the normal human body throughout the life course K PGDip
Ability to describe the pathological basis of core medical conditions throughout the life course K PGDip
Ability to describe the wider determinants of health on the individual and society K PGDip
Demonstrate application of knowledge and skills in a patient-centred manner for the management of core medical conditions throughout the life course, applying knowledge effectively through clinical reasoning and professional judgement in situations of complexity and uncertainty and in the context of the individual patient's needs and wishes. K PGDip
Demonstrate ability to request and interpret common diagnostic and therapeutic procedures for a specified range of common clinical conditions, having demonstrated a comprehensive and critical awareness of the research evidence, national and local guidelines. K PGDip
Demonstrate ability to act safely and promptly in a number of specified acute medical emergencies, taking measures to avoid clinical deterioration of the patient and making a comprehensive and appropriate referral. K PGDip
Demonstrate ability to analyse and interpret evidence for a range of medical presentations K PGDip
Demonstrate competence in performing the full core set of clinical procedural skills (taught in both years) K PGDip
Demonstrate professional insight, knowledge of self, and reflective practice in the approach to patients and to clinical medicine. K PGDip
Demonstrate knowledge of national guidelines and relevant protocols in clinical medicine, and of the structure and function of healthcare in the UK. K PGDip
Demonstrate a common core set of skills, knowledge and values that promote equality, respect diversity, help promote more effective and integrated services and acknowledge the rights of children, young people and their families, and vulnerable groups. K PGDip
Describe the ethical and legal responsibilities of healthcare professionals and demonstrate their application to daily clinical practice. K PGDip
Demonstrate basic applied knowledge for a specified range of common clinical conditions met during the first year of the course (in Primary Care placements and Case Based Study) including ability to summarise the structure and function of the normal human body throughout the life course, to describe the pathological basis of core medical conditions throughout the life course and to describe the wider determinants of health on the individual and society K PGCert
Demonstrate clinical reasoning and judgement in diagnosis and management - demonstrate ability to formulate a reasonable differential diagnosis, based on data presented and in order of likely diagnoses. Show ability to recognise when more information is needed, and have a reasonable idea where to find it. Show ability to seek help if the clinical situation is beyond student/ clinician's level of competence. C PGDip
Demonstrate knowledge and understanding of therapeutics and prescribing, using the British National Formulary as needed, including demonstrate understanding of prescribing in clinical setting, under medical supervision. Write accurate and legible prescriptions, or demonstrate accurate use of a computer to generate prescriptions for review and signature by a supervising clinician. Understand issues that can affect patient compliance with medication and demonstrate strategies to negotiate and improve compliance. C PGDip
Demonstrate common core skills and knowledge when working with children, young people and families - demonstrate effective communication and recognise when to take appropriate action in safeguarding. C PGDip
Demonstrate awareness of the guiding principles of and current developments in the NHS C PGDip
Demonstrate how to apply the principles of promoting health and preventing disease, and how to assess community needs in relation to services provided C PGDip
Demonstrate ability to interpret findings from a consultation, and demonstrate basic ability to select, interpret and act upon appropriate investigations. C PGCert
Understand issues that can affect patient compliance with medication and demonstrate strategies to negotiate and improve compliance. C PGCert
Demonstrate ability to develop and maintain clinician/ patient relationships, communicating effectively and appropriately with patients and carers including . Explaining the boundaries of the PA-patient professional relationship and what they Signify, performing a holistic assessment, identifying and prioritising problems, and facilitating patient/ carer involvement in management, planning and control of health and illness including demonstrating ability to provide useful and appropriate health education. P PGDip
Demonstrate ability to take an appropriate, focussed, and patient-centred history, including the triple diagnosis (physical, psychological and social), and demonstrate how to elicit patients' ideas, concerns and expectations. P PGDip
Demonstrate ability to perform an appropriate focussed clinical examination, including a mental state examination if indicated. P PGDip
Demonstrate ability to formulate and implement appropriate management plans in collaboration with the patient, the supervising doctor and the multi-professional team. Demonstrate ability to perform the list of specified core procedural skills safely and competently P PGDip
Demonstrate ability to recognise potential clinical risk situations and take appropriate action. Participate in clinical governance and clinical audit. Demonstrate safe and effective monitoring and follow-up of patients in liaison with acute and primary care/ community teams. P PGDip
Critically evaluate own performance and practice, identifying learning needs. Demonstrate how to use evidence, guidelines and audit (including significant event analysis) to benefit patient care and improve professional practice. P PGDip
Demonstrate appropriate manual handling techniques for a variety of situations, using any appropriate aids provided. P PGDip
Demonstrate understanding of professional behaviour and probity, showing integrity and sensitivity, recognise and work within own limits of professional competence and maintain effective relationships with colleagues T PGDip
Understand the importance of maintaining timely and relevant medical records. T PGDip
Understand and value the roles of the health and social care teams, demonstrate communication across team boundaries effectively, including handing over patient care. T PGDip
Understand and manage own time constraints and those of the NHS. T PGDip
Demonstrate understanding of ethical and legal issues including patients' rights, competency, confidentiality, informed consent, care of vulnerable patients and how to respond to complaints. T PGDip
Demonstrate understanding of people's rights in accordance with the Equality Act 2010, act with respect towards all patients, colleagues and students, and know how to take action if patients are being abused. T PGDip
Demonstrate understanding of the need to recognise and work within own limits of professional competence T PGCert

Attributes Developed

C - Cognitive/analytical

K - Subject knowledge

T - Transferable skills

P - Professional/Practical skills

Programme structure


This programme is studied full-time over two years, consisting of 120 credits at FHEQ level 7.
Parts of this programme may be studied outside of the standard University structure and may be subject to professional body requirements.

Programme Adjustments (if applicable)

This programme is studied full-time over two academic years. This is because of the volume of knowledge and skills that are required from the programme, to ensure this is delivered adequately to enable the production of a safe clinician.


Year 1 - FHEQ Level 7

Module Selection for Year 1 - FHEQ Level 7


Year 2 - FHEQ Level 7

Module Selection for Year 2 - FHEQ Level 7


Opportunities for placements / work related learning / collaborative activity

Associate Tutor(s) / Guest Speakers / Visiting Academics Y
Professional Training Year (PTY) N
Placement(s) (study or work that are not part of PTY) N
Clinical Placement(s) (that are not part of the PTY scheme) Y Yes
Study exchange (Level 5) N
Dual degree N

Other information

There is a provisional plan to modify the 2nd year of the programme such that there is one year-long 45 credit module and one 15 credit module. This will enable a larger cohort of students to gain the secondary care placement experiences required by the programme curriculum. A final decision on this will be dependent on the response from our Trust partners to the proposed change.
The school/department of Health Sciences/Physician Associate PGDip is committed to developing graduates with strengths in Employability, Digital Capabilities, Global and Cultural Capabilities, Sustainability, and Resourcefulness and Resilience. This programme is designed to allow students to develop knowledge, skills, and capabilities in the following areas:

Digital capabilities: Technology enhanced learning opportunities during this programme include learning anatomy, physiology and pathology using digital resources and use of clinical skills learning facilities in the Surrey Clinical Simulation Centre. The facilities in the simulation centre include models (called Sim men/women) incorporating technology to enable programming a range of pathological features such as high blood pressure, abnormal breath sounds and heart murmurs. Students can use these to develop their clinical skills eliciting clinical signs. On placement students will experience the application of digital innovation in the health environment, including remote consultation. They will learn how digitalised patient record systems are used in hospitals. In their small study groups, learning will be supported by video masterclasses and internet resources Students will use their electronic portfolio to build their portfolio of clinical cases, workplace-based assessments and procedural skills.

Employability: On completion of this programme students will be clinically capable, familiar with management of core clinical conditions and competent to manage common emergency clinical situations. Students will also be familiar with working in a range of NHS specialties and settings. The clinical placements provide students with multiple opportunities to learn about managing common clinical conditions and work closely with the clinical team in both primary and secondary care settings. An elective period, selected and arranged by students, will facilitate further preparation for lifelong learning in their careers. The emphasis on developing understanding and skills in teamworking will prepare students for their career as part of a multidisciplinary clinical team.

Global and cultural capabilities: Students on this programme will learn how to deliver holistic medical care and treatment. This includes learning how to respect and value the range of cultural backgrounds of the patients in their care. These attitudes are developed during their facilitated small group learning (Case Based Learning groups) and in classroom lectures and workshops. Students will develop the skills and attitudes required to address health inequalities and perform advocacy roles. When learning about the epidemiology of medical conditions, students will be encouraged to explore the global prevalence of disease and to understand why variations exist. Students will be supported in reflection on their learning from placement experiences, including developing their competence in communicating with sensitivity to patients from a range of cultural and demographic backgrounds . This will include developing a person-centred and patient-centred approach. Critical thinking will be developed and assessed in both formative and summative written and practical clinical assessments.

Resourcefulness and Resilience: This programme will support students to establish skills in active and independent learning required for lifelong learning throughout a career as a physician associate. Multiple Learning Outcomes in this programme will ensure students develop the knowledge and skills required to demonstrate safe medical practice together with an understanding of how to manage personal wellbeing when working in a demanding professional role. Students will be introduced to the concept of using reflection in their studies and future practice. They will be supported throughout the programme in cultivating their skills in reflection as a means of enhancing their clinical knowledge, understanding and skills as well as using this approach to develop resilience in a challenging working environment.

Sustainability: During the programme students will develop their understanding of safe clinical practice and service improvement with a theme of improving healthcare and research as these relate to modern clinical practice. In their facilitated small group learning, students will have the opportunity to debate with others the relevance of sustainability and the Sustainability Development Goals to their profession. External speakers may be invited to speak on sustainability in the context of the discipline.

Quality assurance

The Regulations and Codes of Practice for taught programmes can be found at:

Please note that the information detailed within this record is accurate at the time of publishing and may be subject to change. This record contains information for the most up to date version of the programme / module for the 2024/5 academic year.