Competency checks on EU doctors backed by top GPs

GP leaders have backed calls for EU doctors working in the UK to face regular competency checks by the GMC.

Dr Holden: 'If the proper checks and balances were already in place, Dr Ubani's mistakes would never have occurred.'
Dr Holden: 'If the proper checks and balances were already in place, Dr Ubani's mistakes would never have occurred.'

In response to a European Commission consultation on medical qualifications, the NHS Confederation's European Office said it was ‘unacceptable’ that EU doctors were automatically allowed to work in the UK even though their qualifications may be 'dangerously out of date'.

The European Commission is proposing that EU doctors who cannot prove they have undergone ‘sufficient continuing professional development’ in their home country should be prohibited from practising in the UK or other EU countries.

But the NHS European Office said this does not go far enough as some EU countries may not have strict systems in place requiring doctors to undergo continuing competence checks.

'We would like to see the directive revised to include the requirement that all member states could expect competent authorities [including the GMC] to have a system in place for assuring the continuing competence of practitioners on the register.'

In 2008, German locum Dr Daniel Ubani ‘unlawfully killed’ a patient by administering a fatal dose of diamorphine during his first shift in the UK. German authorities have been since been unable to confirm whether locum Dr Daniel Ubani ever passed medical exams.

GPC negotiator Dr Peter Holden said it was right that the GMC should carry out regular competency checks on European doctors.

He said: ‘If the proper checks and balances were already in place, Dr Ubani's mistakes would never have occurred.

‘It seems that everything has to bow to the temple of freedom of movement of labour in Europe and patient safety comes second. That can’t be right.’

The NHS Confederation's European Office also raised concerns about the European Commission’s proposal to issue a ‘professional card’ to overseas doctors that would allow them to work freely across the EU. It warned the card could be open to abuse by ‘substandard or fraudulent practitioners’.

It said: ‘It might be relatively easy to obtain a card in some countries with less stringent checks, which would then entitle the holder to move freely around the European Union.'

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