Health Minister, Dr Dan Poulter has today announced new checks to make sure all doctors who work for the NHS can speak English well enough to treat patients.
From April 1st 2013, for the first time, there will be a legal duty to make sure a doctor can speak the necessary level of English to perform their job in a safe and competent manner, before they can treat patients in a hospital or GP practice.
There will also be single national list which every GP will have to be on before treating NHS patients. Previously every Primary Care Trust held a list of GPs. One centrally held list will protect patients – ensuring poor performers will no longer be able to slip through the gaps between different local lists. To be accepted on to this list every GP will have to demonstrate their ability to speak English.
The Government is also proposing to give the GMC new powers from 2014 to prevent all doctors from being granted a licence to practise medicine in theUK, where concerns arise about their ability to speak English.
A consultation on new powers for the GMC will be launched later this year. It will set out proposals for the GMC to be able to insist that a doctor provides evidence of their ability to speak English before a licence to practise medicine is granted, where concerns arise about their language ability.
It will also include plans to create a new category of impairment relating to deficient language skills. This would allow the GMC to investigate concerns about a doctor’s language skills and apply appropriate sanctions where concerns arise after registration.
All of these new checks will mean that for the first time there will be a comprehensive system so that European doctors wanting to work for the NHS will be have to demonstrate their ability to speak English when applying for a job.
Doctors from outside of the EU are already subject to language checks, but current EU law requires the UK to automatically recognise the medical qualifications of doctors from countries in the European Economic Area – and to register them to work in the UK.
The Government is also working hard to negotiate the revision of the EU law so that tougher mandatory checks can be applied to all European doctors when they apply to work in the UK. The Government hopes to have an agreement on a revised directive this Autumn.
Health Minister Dr Dan Poulter said: “Patients should be able to understand and be understood by their doctor if we are to give them the best care they deserve.
“These new checks will ensure that all doctors who want to work in the NHS can speak proficient English and to prevent those who can’t from treating patients.
“There are lots of excellent doctors from around the world working in the NHS – this is simply about protecting patients and having proper checks on a doctor’s ability to speak English.
“By introducing these steps we will be able to put an end to doctors treating patients without proper checks on their language.”