Canary crunches data RCP didn’t want public

  • Post last modified:March 18, 2024
  • Reading time:8 mins read

The Royal College of Physicians has been caught manipulating its own data – seemingly to make it appear that its members support Conservative Party plans for the continued roll out of controversial physician associates in the NHS. Having been caught out, the College released the actual data.

So, the Canary crunched the numbers – and the reality of the figures is completely different from what the Royal College of Physicians claimed.

Physician associates: a ‘scandal that affects you all’

Palliative care doctor Rachel Clarke posted on X that:

The Royal College of Physicians surveyed its members on what they thought about physician associates. It presented what it claimed were the findings at an extraordinary general meeting – one that members forced it to hold. This was because, as Clarke posted on X, members:

were so appalled by our College’s role in enabling the government’s project of replacing doctors with cheaper & less well-trained doctor substitutes (physician associates) in an extraordinary array of medical jobs across the NHS.

At the meeting, the Royal College of Physicians claimed that:

  • 66% of those members working with physician associates “were more positive regarding the role” than those “with no experience”.

You’d be forgiven for thinking this meant that the majority of Royal College of Physician members approved of physician associates. Wrong.

Spinning for the Tories?

As Clarke tweeted:

She summed up by saying the Royal College of Physicians hoped:

that by spinning the data in a manner more suited to a government press apparatchik, it could influence the vote, preventing Fellows from insisting on a pause in the PA project.

There has been uproar among members. Several have resigned their positions:

Others accused the Royal College of Physicians of being complicit in a “massive”, Tory-led “fraud”:

Predictably, the Royal College of Physicians has backtracked. It said on X that it had published the data and that:

We recognised… [members’] concerned and we have listened.

We are undertaking a major governance refresh that is being led by Council members and we are committed to modernising the college and its working practices as quickly as possible.

It begs the question whether “modernising the college” involves NOT being subservient to the Tories’ agenda of destroying then privatising the NHS?

So, just what was in the actual data of the members’ survey?

Canary crunches the Royal College of Physicians data

The Canary has crunched it. We found that – in contrast to the headline figures the Royal College of Physicians promoted – across all members:

  • 40.78% of members were NOT supportive of physician associates being in MDTs. This was the biggest response – with 26.81% being neutral, and 29.05% being supportive.
  • 55.30% said their teams felt the term ‘physician associate’ was unclear – versus 14.29% who were neutral, and 24.19% saying it was clear.
  • 42.83% said physician associates were RARELY “appropriately supervised and supported” in secondary care – versus 15.79% who were neutral, and 23.26% who said “most of the time”.

Breaking the data down further, and the survey found that among doctors who were already working with physician associates, 33.42% were not supportive of them being in MDTs, 23.30% were neutral, and 42.76% were supportive.

For the same question asked of doctors who had previously worked with physician associates, the results were 46.07%, 30.89%, and 21.53% respectively. For doctors who had not worked with physician associates, the results were 40.43%, 23.22%, and 20.22% respectively.

So, actually – the highest percentage of doctors who were NOT supportive of physician associates working in MDTs came from those who had previously worked with them.

One other stand out result was on whether or not members thought physician associates were being properly supervised and supported. the results showed that:

  • 39.18% of doctors currently working with them thought they RARELY were – higher than the 37.78% who thought they were.
  • A majority (51.41%) of doctors who had previously worked with physician associates felt they were RARELY appropriately supervised and supported, versus 19.01% who thought they were.

Physician associates: a continuing disaster

So, far from being a glowing endorsement of these roles, Royal College of Physicians members clearly have grave concerns. However, as one person summed up on X:

It remains to be seen where the Royal College of Physicians goes from here. However, what is becoming even clearer is that the Tories’ push for the integration of physician associates into the NHS is a continuing disaster; one that needs to be stop immediately.

Featured image via the Royal College of Physicians

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