New checks are being introduced to make sure all doctors who work for the NHS can speak English well enough to treat patients in a hospital or GP practice following concerns raised by the Health Committee.
This will mean that for the first time European doctors wanting to work for the NHS will have to demonstrate their English skills when applying for a job. So from 1 April 2013 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. At the moment, EU law dictates that the UK automatically recognise the medical qualifications of doctors from countries in the European Economic Area and to register them to work in the UK.
There will also be a single national list that every GP will have to be on before treating NHS patients. Previously, every primary care trust held a list of GPs but the idea is that one centrally held list would protect patients by ensuring poor performers will no longer be able to slip through the gaps between different local lists. Every GP will have to demonstrate their ability to speak English to be accepted on to the new list.
The government is also proposing to give the General Medical Council (GMC) new powers to prevent all doctors from being granted a licence to practise medicine in the UK where concerns are raised about their ability to speak English.
Health minister Dr Dan Poulter said: “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.”