Rules that allow EU doctors to practise in UK pose 'unacceptable risk' to patients

The rules that allow doctors to practise throughout the EU pose an 'unacceptable risk' to patient safety, a House of Lords report has concluded.

Dr Gray: welcomed the recommendation that language tests on EU doctors should be carried out at the point of registration as well as by employers locally.
Dr Gray: welcomed the recommendation that language tests on EU doctors should be carried out at the point of registration as well as by employers locally.

In a report on the mobility of healthcare professionals, the House of Lords EU sub-committee said the EU directive that allows doctors to work freely across Europe ‘strikes the wrong balance’ and fails to command the confidence of patients and professionals.

It said a ‘serious failure’ of the directive is that it does not allow the GMC and other competent authorities to test the language skills of EU doctors before they are allowed to work in the UK.  

It said the directive must be changed to allow the GMC to carry out a ‘one-off test’ at the point of registration. A less formal language check should also be carried out by employers locally, it said.

The report also said there are instances where the EU directive is ‘out of step’ with modern practice. It said the directive’s requirements on minimum training requirements and durations must therefore be updated to address this.

The directive must also stipulate that member states must ensure health professionals undertake continuing professional development, it said.

Baroness Young of Hornsey, chairwoman of the House of Lords EU sub-committee said the current EU rules are ‘failing our patients’.

She said: ‘It is absolutely unacceptable that current EU rules put patients in the UK and elsewhere at risk.
 
‘We recognise that mobility within the EU can bring significant benefits, but we have to make sure that this is not at the expense of patients’ health, care and confidence.’

Dr Stuart Gray, whose father was killed by German locum Dr Daniel Ubani during his first shift in the UK, said the report is a ‘big step in the right direction’.

He said he welcomed the recommendation that language tests on EU doctors should be carried out at the point of registration as well as by employers locally.

But he said the recommendation around competency tests should have gone further to allow the GMC to carry out checks at the point of registration.

Dr Gray said: ‘This report is a big step in the right direction. Let’s hope it gets acted on and doesn’t just get swept under the carpet.

‘If we get changes made so the EU directive does not continue to put patients at unacceptable risk then we have achieved something that creates some legacy towards my father.’

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