128 doctors barred over language


Published: Friday 9th January 2015 by The News Editor

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More than 100 European doctors have been refused a licence to practise medicine in Britain due to their poor English skills, a health minister has said.

Tory front-bencher Dr Dan Poulter told the Commons 128 doctors from the European Economic Area (EEA) had failed to meet the necessary criteria since new regulations were brought in last April.

The General Medical Council (GMC) extended its checks on overseas doctors to include those applying to work in the UK from other European countries, which can include ensuring they provide evidence of their English skills or undertake a language assessment.

Ukip leader Nigel Farage this week claimed there is a problem with foreign GPs not speaking good English despite all NHS doctors having to pass a language test.

And Sir Bill Cash (Stone) led Tory backbench calls in Parliament today for ministers to strengthen laws to protect patients from suffering poor treatment from foreign medical practitioners.

He cited the case of a patient who died from a drugs overdose given by a German locum.

David Gray, 70, of Manea, Cambridgeshire, died after he was treated by Dr Daniel Ubani in 2008.

Dr Poulter said Dr Ubani was a German national whose language skills were a “strong component in the incident”, adding the incident prompted recommendations for the Government to change the law to allow the GMC to extend language tests to doctors from the EEA.

He said the skills of medical professionals from overseas could benefit the NHS, although it was important for them to speak English to perform their duties properly.

Dr Poulter told the Commons: “It was April last year that I led through this House changes to the Medical Act to strengthen the arrangements to ensure that all doctors, including those from within the European Economic Area, must have sufficient knowledge of English before being able to work and look after patients in the UK.

“I hope (Sir Bill) will agree that patients are much better protected by new powers given by this Government to the GMC and at the same time as they implemented language tests for European doctors in June 2014, the GMC also raised the pass mark for the language exam tests that they use.

“So the GMC has vigorously used these powers given to them by the Government and they’ve raised the pass mark for the language testing exam.

“Since the GMC’s legislation was changed in April of last year by this Government to strengthen language test arrangements, 128 European area doctors have been refused a licence to practise medicine in the UK due to inadequate language skills, which shows this is a measure that’s working to protect patients in the UK from doctors from within the European Union who can’t speak English effectively.

“So it’s a measure we have implemented as a Government, it’s having effect, it’s biting and it’s something that’s making sure that patients are being properly protected.”

Dr Poulter said he understood existing doctors would have their language skills assessed every five years as part of the GMC’s revalidation work.

Sir Bill later withdrew his proposed clause to the Health and Social Care (Safety and Quality) Bill, which asked the Health Secretary to make regulations enabling the GMC to ensure all doctors holding a licence to practise medicine in the UK have “appropriate language skills to communication effectively with their colleagues and patients”.

He told MPs he would like peers to discuss the issue again when the Bill undergoes further scrutiny in the Lords.

The proposed legislation, led by Tory Jeremy Lefroy (Stafford), cleared the Commons today after receiving an unopposed third reading.

It aims to ensure health and social care services are better integrated to ensure the failures exposed in the Mid Staffordshire scandal are not repeated.

Mr Lefroy is calling for the introduction of a single patient identifier to ensure information is always shared between the various bodies involved in a person’s care.

Speaking previously in the Commons, the MP said the Bill aims to eliminate or at least reduce “avoidable harm” by putting the focus on safety and spelling out in law what is expected of staff.

Published: Friday 9th January 2015 by The News Editor

Comments (1)
  • Kevin Marshall

    Well goodness gracious me !!!!

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