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09.09.13

GMC to assess doctors’ language skills

The General Medical Council (GMC) could get the power to check doctors’ language capability, in the latest of a string of competency reforms introduced by the Government.

The proposals would see the GMC carry out assessments where there is cause for concern about a doctor’s language ability, even if this emerges during a fitness to practice investigation after the doctor has already been practicing.

A consultation on the plans is open until December 2, with changes expected to come into effect in 2014. The checks would apply to all European doctors wishing to register for work in the UK, whether they intend to work in the NHS or not.

Health minister Dr Dan Poulter said: “Overseas doctors make a hugely valuable contribution to the NHS but it is clear that tougher checks are needed. We have already strengthened the way doctors’ language skills are checked at a local level.

“These new powers are an important step in making the system even stronger by allowing the GMC to carry out checks on a national level before they start work in the UK and prevent doctors who do not have the necessary knowledge of English from treating patients.”

Niall Dickson, chief executive of the GMC, said: “We are delighted that the Government is consulting on changes to the Medical Act to give us new powers to check the English language skills of all doctors when we have concerns about them. This is an important move that will help protect patients and will be welcomed across the country.”

Tell us what you think – have your say below, or email us directly at opinion@nationalhealthexecutive.com

Comments

Jon Danzig   10/09/2013 at 20:18

EU rules state that if a migrant doesn’t have the necessary language skills to practice his or her profession in the UK, those skills have to be acquired. The NHS has a duty to ensure that staff can communicate effectively and safely with patients and other staff, and to check language competency where there is any doubt. Michel Barnier, EU Commissioner for the internal market and services, said: “It is a myth that EU rules require the UK to employ European doctors and nurses without proof that their medical skills and English are up to scratch. This is not the case and never has been." See my latest blog: 'A lie is a lie in any language' http://eu-rope.ideasoneurope.eu/?p=254

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