Those working in the NHS have had to become used to the reality of doing more with less, and how they balance finite resources such as money, time and staff numbers against the ever-swelling tide of patient demand.

Indeed, so much is now asked of doctors that a BMA survey carried out as part of the BMA’s Caring, supportive, collaborative project, found that approximately half reported that they were having to spend more than an hour a day completing tasks that could feasibly be carried out by those without medical degrees.

With this in mind, the prospect of expanding the health service’s clinical workforce to include non-medically trained staff to provide support and effectively take up some of the slack, has been increasingly mooted.

Speaking at the BMA annual representative meeting in Belfast, retired consultant in obs and gynae Alan Russell said that, handled in the right way, such staff could prove invaluable.

‘The non-medical members of the workforce I think have a tremendous part to play, if done properly,’ he said.

But doctors at the meeting agreed with Dr Russell that there needed to be a number of significant provisos in the employment of non-medical members of the clinical workforce.

They included being trained for the role by a national certified body, belonging to a regulatory body, having appropriate indemnity, and being seen to be part of a multidisciplinary team.

There has also been confusion among patients around the numerous titles used by non-medical members of the workforce, raising concerns that they would confuse them for doctors. Doctors agreed that clarity was vital.

‘What’s very, very important as well is that they must have a title that makes it very clear that they are not medically qualified,’ said Dr Russell.

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