Suffolk/UK: Poulter outlines new language tests for EU doctors

Dr Dan Poulter

Dr Dan Poulter - Credit: Archant

FOREIGN doctors who want to work for the NHS in England will have to prove they can speak English well enough to treat patients, the Government has confirmed.

The move was confirmed by health minister and Central Suffolk MP Dr Daniel Poulter – and comes five years after a Suffolk-based out of hours service employed a German locum GP who prescribed an overdose which led to the death of a Cambridgeshire pensioner.

Doctors coming to the UK from outside the EU already face strict language tests.

But those from within the European Economic Area are said to have registered to work in the NHS without being asked if they can speak English properly.

The General Medical Council (GMC) pushed for stronger language testing following the case of David Gray, who died in Cambridgeshire in 2008.

He died after German doctor Daniel Ubani administered 10 times the normal dose of diamorphine.

Dr Ubani admitted being exhausted after getting only a couple of hours sleep before starting his shift in the UK, and said he was confused about the difference between drugs used here and in Germany.

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His poor English meant he was refused work by the NHS in one part of the country but was later accepted.

The Government is proposing to give the GMC new powers to prevent doctors from being granted a licence to practise medicine in the UK where concerns arise about their ability to speak English.

Ministers are also introducing a single national list which every GP will have to be on before treating NHS patients. Previously every Primary Care Trust held a list of GPs.

Dr 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.

“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.”

He added: “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.”

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