Employers welcome GMC proposals for more robust language checks

Doctor consultation

25 / 2 / 2014 Midnight

NHS Employers has responsed to the General Medical Council's (GMC) consultation report into raising requirements for testing European doctors' language skills.
Responding to the General Medical Council’s consultation report Making sure all licensed doctors have the necessary knowledge of English to practise safely in the UK (published today) and its aim to raise requirements for testing European doctors’ language skills, Bill McMillan, head of medical pay and workforce at the NHS Employers organisation, said:

“Employers have told us that they overwhelmingly support the GMC’s conclusions and, in particular, its aim to regulate doctors from Europe to the same language standard as those from further afield. These are proportionate, sensible proposals that put patients first by giving employers more power to ensure all NHS doctors can communicate well in English.

“The GMC’s report takes account of compelling input from NHS employers, 98 per cent of whom said they want the GMC to have the power to address serious language concerns with a formal language assessment. Also 96 per cent of employers wanted language requirements for doctors from Europe to match those from elsewhere.

"Health and care professionals from other countries make a huge contribution to the NHS and NHS patients will continue to benefit from skills and expertise developed overseas.” However, “it is essential that all staff are able to communicate with their patients and colleagues safely and effectively in English, both orally and in writing, in whatever role they undertake, whether in clinical or support services. Language checks in their current form are improving and widely seen as robust, so it is important that they be applied consistently by employers across all jobs - regardless of where the staff are recruited from.”

NHS Employers invited employing organisations to submit their views to the GMC’s consultation via an online survey. These included:

  • 96 per cent agreed that ‘it is fair and proportionate to require the same evidence of English language proficiency from European Economic Area doctors as international medical graduates.’ 
  • 94 per cent agreed that ‘doctors who are unable or unwilling to show they have the necessary knowledge of English to work safely in the UK should be refused a licence to practise.’ 
  • 98 per cent agreed that ‘if there is a serious concern about a registered doctor’s knowledge of English, [the GMC] should have the power to require a doctor to undergo a language assessment.’ 
  • 92 per cent agreed that the GMC ‘should be able to indefinitely suspend doctors who fail over time to acquire the necessary knowledge of English to safely treat patients in the UK.’
The GMC is now considering the findings of the report and will be working with the Department of Health to finalise the rules and regulations throughout the first half of 2014.

Notes to Editors

Note that references to Europe in this press release refer to the European Economic Area.

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