GMC could win right to test EU doctors' language skills

Rules preventing the GMC from testing the language skills of doctors trained abroad could be scrapped to help prevent a repeat of errors that saw German locum Daniel Ubani kill a patient on his first UK shift.

Doctors trained elsewhere in EU could face language checks
Doctors trained elsewhere in EU could face language checks

EU leaders have reached a provisional agreement that could allow member states’ regulators to test doctors’ language skills. Doctors and nurses from elsewhere in the EU could then be forced to prove they can speak English before practising in the UK.

The draft deal could also see an alert system set up, obliging EU states to warn other countries within three days if a health professional commits a crime or faces disciplinary procedures.

The deal could also ensure that the UK is not forced to unnecessarily increase the length of doctors’ training beyond the current five-year term.

West Midlands GP Dr Stuart Gray and his brother Rory have campaigned for tighter checks on overseas doctors since their father David was killed by an overdose of diamorphine administered by Dr Ubani.

GP leaders have also backed plans to tighten checks on overseas doctors.

The NHS Confederation’s European Office welcomed the provisional deal, and said the alert system could stop rogue doctors from ‘shopping around Europe’.

Elisabetta Zanon, director of the NHS European Office, said: ‘The NHS needs to ensure the right checks and balances are in place to protect patients from dangerous care from health professionals. We have worked hard to ensure that patients are safeguarded, and are pleased that this provisional deal has taken account of many of the concerns we raised.

‘We need health professionals to be able to move around Europe freely and use their expertise in other countries, but patient safety must be our first priority. NHS organisations must be confident that European staff who come to work in the UK have been properly checked and that their qualifications, experience and other credentials are up to date and meet minimum standards.’

The proposed deal will be voted on by the full European Parliament later this year if approved by EU states in a council meeting.

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