RCGP urges tougher checks on EU out-of-hours doctors

GP son of patient killed by German doctor working his first UK shift supports call for rule changes.

Professor Steve Field
Professor Steve Field

European doctors working in the UK should work under supervision before being allowed to treat patients alone, the RCGP has said.

The college is calling for a full-scale review of the use of European Union (EU) doctors for out-of-hours services. The move follows the death of 70-year-old David Gray, who was given a fatal painkiller overdose last year by a German doctor working his first shift in the UK.

The RCGP wants tougher criteria for EU GPs to gain a place on primary care organisation (PCO) performers lists, including a supervision period, and GP input to commissioning out-of-hours services.

PCOs can carry out competence and language tests and order EU GPs to work under supervision, but many do not, RCGP chairman Professor Steve Field told GP.

He added: 'We are very concerned about the medical competencies of some doctors in Europe. UK doctors have to undergo a period of supervision as part of their training and so should those from Europe.'

The RCGP and the GMC are also calling for an overhaul of European law on hiring EU doctors for shifts in the UK.

This would mean changing the 2005 European directive on cross-border healthcare, which prevents regulatory bodies such as the GMC from testing EU doctors' language skills and competency, but lets PCOs do so.

The directive says all member states must recognise the medical qualifications held by doctors from within Europe.

GMC chief executive Finlay Scott said: 'We want to test knowledge and skills at first registration with the GMC. We can do that for doctors from outside Europe but we cannot do it with doctors from within the European Economic Area.'

Professor Field is due to meet DoH representatives later this month to discuss the RCGP's concerns.

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