Developing a ‘Doctors’ Assistant’ role to ease pressure on doctors and improve patient flow in acute NHS hospitals

Scarlett McNally, Jörg Huber

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


    Introduction: The UK is short of doctors, whose workloads have increased. The new role of Doctors' Assistant has been evaluated with the aim of addressing workload and patient-flow issues. Methods: Five Doctors' Assistants were introduced at two busy acute hospitals, recruited from the healthcare assistant workforce. We devised a 2-week induction, ongoing supervision and communication exercise. The evaluation used a mixed-method design. Doctors and Doctors' Assistants completed self-reported diary entries and timings of tasks and ward rounds. Qualitative feedback was sought from other hospital staff and analysed by theme. Results: Diary cards showed 44% of doctors' time spent on administrative tasks. Doctors' Assistants' shifts documented tasks undertaken (including venepuncture, updating patient lists and drafting discharge summaries) with 84% resulting in earlier decision/diagnosis or care. Feedback reported key messages: Doctors' Assistants provide considerable practical help, their attitude enhances the team and they improve patient flow. Discussion: The project proved safe, successful and well liked. Unexpectedly, the project had to collect financial data to justify its continuation. Acute hospitals have few clinical roles at this level. Role transition requires training, supervision and line management. Conclusion: The role of Doctors' Assistant should be developed more widely, with attention to detail and economic benefits.

    Original languageEnglish
    Article number192
    Pages (from-to)1-3
    Number of pages3
    JournalBMJ Leader
    Publication statusPublished - 16 Nov 2020

    Bibliographical note

    © Author(s) (or their employer(s)) 2020. Re-use permitted under CC BY-NC. No commercial re-use. See rights and permissions. Published by BMJ.
    This is an open access article distributed in accordance with the Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial (CC BY-NC 4.0) license, which permits others to distribute, remix, adapt, build upon this work non-commercially, and license their derivative works on different terms, provided the original work is properly cited, appropriate credit is given, any changes made indicated, and the use is non-commercial. See:


    • Organisational development
    • doctoral education
    • healthcare assistant
    • doctor
    • health policy
    • medical leadership
    • productivity
    • flow


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