Giving evidence to the health select committee, GMC chief executive Niall Dickson said the GMC is at the ‘final stages’ of a new scheme which will provide ‘much better safeguards’ around language testing doctors inside the EU.
Calls for language tests have gathered momentum since German locum Dr Daniel Ubani killed a patient in 2008 by accidentally administering an overdose of diamorphine.
Under current UK and European law, the GMC cannot language test doctors from the EU, recently revealing that it is powerless to prevent doctors who do not speak English using interpreters to help them register to work in the UK.
But Mr Dickson said considerable progress has been made and it now hopes to be handed new powers to test the language skills of European doctors.
He said a change to the UK Medical Act would enable the GMC to language test doctors seeking to register in the UK in instances where there are doubts about their ability to speak English.
He said a supporting measure would see responsible officers at employer level to test doctors’ language competency and fitness-to-practice when they seek work.
He said: ‘When someone who is new to the register and first engages with the responsible officer … the responsible officer would sign off whether that doctor is competent and fit to practise.
‘We think we have made considerable progress, some of the detail still being thought through, but we believe that this scheme is compliant with EU law and if can get UK law changed it will be compliant with UK law.’