GMC to check doctors' English skills

A tired GP GPs are among those whose English language skills could be checked

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The General Medical Council is to be given new powers to check the English-language skills of all doctors working in the UK, under government proposals.

At present it can only make language checks on doctors from outside Europe.

The government is carrying out a 12-week consultation on the changes.

In April, the government created a national list of doctors who can treat NHS patients. GPs wishing to be included will have to demonstrate their ability to speak English.

It also appointed senior doctors who have a legal duty to ensure all doctors in their local area can speak the necessary level of English to perform their job in a safe and competent manner.

On Saturday, Health Minister Dr Dan Poulter said: "Overseas doctors make a hugely valuable contribution to the NHS, but it is clear that tougher checks are needed.

"We have already strengthened the way doctors' language skills are checked at a local level.

"These new powers are an important step in making the system even stronger by allowing the GMC to carry out checks on a national level before they start work in the UK and prevent doctors who do not have the necessary knowledge of English from treating patients."

Niall Dickson, chief executive of the General Medical Council, said: "We are delighted.

"This is an important move that will help protect patients and will be welcomed across the country."


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  • rate this

    Comment number 160.

    Most British doctors that work overseas can't speak the local language either they are there to provide medical assistance not conversation. Whilst it is beneficial for consultancy purposes who would refuse emergency medical treament because their doctor couldn't speak english.

  • rate this

    Comment number 158.

    As a pharmacist of many years standing it is not only fluency in English whish needs to be ensured but also whether overseas doctors can speak without an unintelligible accent.

  • rate this

    Comment number 41.

    Surely vets do a great job and they can't speak dog (with the possible exception of the legendary Dr Dolittle)

  • rate this

    Comment number 27.

    This is outrageous and raises more questions than it answers.

    Why were we not able to check the standard of English from doctors from within the EU? Why was an English competency test not a mandatory part of the appointment process? Why did the GMC not consider this important enough previously that patients and colleagues could actually understand the doctor?

    This is people's lives!!!

  • rate this

    Comment number 15.

    Sounds obvious but all medical staff should be able to speak and understand a native language wherever in the world they work.


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