EU GPs face English language tests from June

European doctors coming to work in the UK will face checks on their English language skills from June, the GMC has said.

GMC chairman Niall Dickson: tougher checks vital (photo: Chris Renton)
GMC chairman Niall Dickson: tougher checks vital (photo: Chris Renton)

The watchdog raised the bar for all overseas doctors asked to prove their English language ability, increasing the required score in a standard test.

BMA leaders backed the move, highlighting the importance of testing to ensure patient safety.

Under current laws, the GMC can test the English language skills of overseas doctors wishing to work in the UK, but not those of EU doctors.

But after ongoing changes to legislation the new checks are expected to come in from this summer.

GMC chief executive Niall Dickson said: ‘Doctors who want to practise in the UK must be able to communicate effectively in English to ensure the safety of their patients.

 ‘These new measures to ensure doctors from other European countries can communicate in English, combined with the higher test score requirements, will help us strengthen protection for patients. They will also bring about a greater degree of fairness between our requirements for European doctors and for those from outside Europe.

‘These are important steps to tighten up our procedures. But, while we welcome the government’s support for our determination to achieve reform in this area, there is more to do. This is part of a package of measures that will further increase our scope to make sure that doctors coming to the UK from the European Union are able to communicate safely. Employers, including locum agencies, must also play their part, and ensure that all doctors for whom they are responsible can communicate and practise safely. ’

BMA director of professional activities Dr Vivienne Nathanson said: 'The BMA supports the introduction of English language checks for European doctors and new plans from the GMC to set the bar higher for all overseas doctors having to take the tests. 

'It is vital for patient safety that all doctors, whether from the European Economic Area or otherwise, have an acceptable command of English to communicate effectively to ensure the safety of their patients.'

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