GMC sets out language testing plans for EU doctors

GMC fitness to practise rules will be updated to include a category for 'not having the necessary knowledge of English' under plans set out by the regulator.

GMC: consultation on language testing powers
GMC: consultation on language testing powers

Current European law prevents the GMC from testing the English language skills of EU doctors as a condition of their registration with a license to practise in the UK.

But the DH is consulting on plans to change the law to allow the GMC to check not just the language skills of non-EU overseas doctors, but also those from within the EU.

In tandem with the DH consultation, the GMC has set out proposals to update fitness to practise and licensing procedures for doctors.

Under the GMC proposals, qualified EU doctors would be able to register in the UK but could be asked to prove their English language ability under the International English Language Testing Scheme (IELTS) used to check overseas doctors' ability to speak English.

Doctors who have been trained and tested in an English-speaking system or who have worked for a period in an English-speaking country may be exempted from this, but first-time applicants for a UK license to practise may be asked to undergo a test if the GMC deems it necessary.

The GMC also wants powers to test doctors practising in the UK if concerns emerge about thier English language skills. It plans to create a new category for impairment of fitness to practise, namely 'not having the necessary knowledge of English', and doctors would be required to undergo IELTS tests to prove their competence.

GMC chief executive Niall Dickson said: 'The safety of patients must always come first. That means doctors wanting to practise in this country must be able to speak English clearly and communicate effectively. If a doctor cannot do this we should be able to prevent them from practising in the UK.'

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