New powers to check language skills of doctors
New checks are being introduced to make sure all doctors who work for the NHS can speak English well enough to treat patients.
The checks are detailed in the government response, published today, to the House of Commons Health Committee Report ’2012 Accountability Hearing with the General Medical Council’.
The paper provides the government’s response to the three recommendations that were directed to the Department of Health – two of them concerned language controls for doctors and the third focussed on a right of appeal for the General Medical Council against Medical Practitioner Disciplinary Tribunal decisions.
The majority of the Committee’s recommendations are for the General Medical Council and the Department is supporting these.
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 before they can treat patients in a hospital or GP practice.
There will also be 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. One centrally held list will 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 this list.
The Government is also proposing to give the GMC new powers to prevent all doctors from being granted a licence to practise medicine in the UK where concerns arise about their ability to speak English.
The 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.
Health Minister Dr Dan Poulter said:
“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.”