OBJECTIVE: To investigate the potential for the doctor's assistant role within an accident and emergency (A&E) department in relation to consultant workload. METHODS: A time and motion evaluation of the activities of four A&E consultants before and after a doctor's assistant was established as a team member within our department. A review of the literature was undertaken to allow comparisons with the American model of the physician assistant within the emergency department. RESULTS: The initial evaluation indicated that over 20% of the consultant's time could have been saved if an assistant were available to perform a variety of non-medical tasks. The restudy performed once the assistant was in post indicated less time was spent by the doctors in "medical" clerical duties (6.7% v 11.5% time), telephone use (5.6% v 7.7%), and venepuncture/cannula insertion (0.4% v 2.1%), and more time was spent on consultation over cases (15.3% v 11.3%) and supervision of other staff (9.3% v 4.1%). These five areas changed significantly (p = 0.005 by paired t test). CONCLUSIONS: The doctor's assistant may have a role in reprofiling the workload of senior doctors in A&E departments in the UK. They may also have a role in reducing the pressure on junior doctors, though this effect was not evaluated.
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