GMC publishes language consultation report


25 / 2 / 2014 9am

The General Medical Council published a report detailing the findings of their consultation on language proficiency on 25 February 2014.

The report, Making sure all licensed doctors have the necessary knowledge of English to practise safely in the UK, follows extensive consultation with stakeholders.

The proposals the GMC consulted on aimed to further strengthen the safeguards to make sure all licensed doctors have the necessary knowledge of English to practise safely in the UK, by making changes to some of their rules and regulations.

NHS Employers responded to the consultation on behalf of employing organisations, following an online survey to gather views. The collective response showed support for the proposals, which will enable the GMC to:

  • ask European Economic Area (EEA) doctors for evidence of their English language proficiency, where they have concerns about their ability to communicate effectively, before granting a licence to practise
  • strengthen their ability to take action in relation to doctors who are already licensed, where concerns around language proficiency are raised.

High level of support

The GMC has said that there was a very high level of support for the proposals, with the vast majority agreeing that the GMC should have the ability to ensure all doctors coming to the UK, including those within the EEA, have the necessary knowledge of English. The GMC also found a high level of agreement that they should have appropriate powers to deal with concerns about licensed doctors.

NHS Employers' consultation response is referred to extensively in the GMC report, and we are pleased that the GMC and the majority of organisations and individual respondents share our view. The proposals represent a sensible evolution of the regulations, which are focused completely on patient safety.

Media statement

Responding to the report in a media statement, Bill McMillan, head of medical pay and workforce at NHS Employers, said:

"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."

Considering the findings

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, hopefully in June 2014 subject to progress through parliament. The Department of Health was consulting on changes to the Medical Act, which would facilitate the GMC proposals. The GMC report says the response to the Department's consultation was "generally positive".

IELTS test

The GMC has also announced that they plan to raise their requirements for the International English Language Testing System (IELTS) at the same time as implementing the proposals above.

Currently, the GMC requires an overall score of 7.0 on the test. This will be raised to an overall score of 7.5, with a minimum score of 7.0 across all four components of the test; speaking, listening, reading, and writing.

Employers had raised concerns that the current requirements weren't high enough to prove adequate language skills, so we are pleased the GMC has decided to review and raise their requirements.

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