MPs demand improvement in out-of-hours care checks

MPs have called for 'vastly improved' checks and constant vigilance on PCTs' monitoring of out-of-hours standards.

The Commons health select committee says that strategic health authorities and the Care Quality Commission must monitor PCTs vigilantly on the language and clinical checks that doctors need to get onto a performers list.

Further, the government must work ‘as a matter of extreme urgency' to give the GMC powers to test the language and clinical skills of doctors from the European Economic Area (EEA) - the EU plus Iceland, Norway and Liechtenstein, as well as Switzerland.

The committee inquired into out-of-hours standards after a coroner's verdict in February of unlawful killing by German locum Dr Daniel Ubani.

The MPs noted that although health minister Mike O'Brien said that Cornwall and Isles of Scilly PCT, where Dr Ubani was on the performers list, broke the law in not assessing his language skills, no action was taken against the PCT. The PCT has since changed its vetting system.

The GMC is prevented from language-testing EEA doctors by the Medical Act 1983. EU directive 2005/36/EC on the recognition of professional qualifications stops the GMC from testing EEA doctors' clinical competence.

Health minister Mike O'Brien admitted to the inquiry: ‘Where we have to tighten up a lot, is on the employer.'

The GMC has written to all PCTs and employers in the UK reminding them of their duty to ensure that doctors ‘are fit to do the job'.

The DoH is reviewing the performers list and looking at a national database of GPs.

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