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24-02-2013 | Article

Language checks on horizon


General Medical Council

New rules coming into force from April will make English language and communication skills tests compulsory for overseas doctors who want to work in the UK.

The plans will see CCG responsible officers in England held legally responsible for the checks.

Problems with current regulations came to light over the case of German locum Daniel Ubani, who caused the death of patient David Gray by administering him a tenfold overdose of diamorphine. Ubani had been barred from one health trust because he failed an English test, but was able to register at another that had less stringent rules on proof of language skills.

Health minister Dan Poulter told the BBC: "These new checks will ensure that all doctors who want to work in the NHS can speak proficient English and prevent those who can't from treating patients."

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".

GMC Chief Executive Niall Dickson said: "If doctors cannot speak English to a safe standard then the GMC must be able to protect patients by preventing them from practising in the UK.

"At present we can do that for doctors who have qualified outside Europe but we cannot do it for doctors within the European Union. The government has signalled today that it wants to give us new powers to test the communication skills of these doctors and close this gap in our regulatory defences."

Medical News is an independent clinical news service provided by Springer Healthcare Limited. © Springer Healthcare Ltd; 2013

By Caroline Price, Senior medwireNews Reporter