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Speed up English tests for EU doctors, say MPs who accuse Government of making 'no substantive progress'Doctors from European countries are free to work without language checksDue to a diktat from Brussels saying tests would impede movement of labour23,000 doctors from Europe are registered to work in Britain despite never undergoing checks on their English or medical skills
01:03 GMT, 4 December 2012
Not enough: Ministers are not making progress on overturning EU rules forbidding language tests
Ministers are not doing enough to make sure foreign doctors can speak good English, MPs warn.
They accuse the Government of making ‘no substantive progress’ on overturning strict European Union rules that forbid language tests.
At present, all GPs and hospital doctors from European countries are free to work in Britain without facing any form of national checks on their competence or English-speaking ability.
This is because of a diktat handed down from Brussels which states that such tests would impede the ‘freedom of movement of labour’ across the continent.
But there are widespread concerns that this is costing patients’ lives.
In 2008 70-year-old patient David Gray was killed by an incompetent German GP Daniel Ubani who gave him 20 times the legal dose of morphine.
The German doctor – who was on his first out-of-hours shift – had not had to prove his competence or ability with English before being employed by the NHS trust, Cambridgeshire. Now MPs from the Health Select Committee say they are ‘disappointed’ that the Government has not tried to change the law.
Officials from the Department of Health have insisted they are working with the EU to alter the legislation so checks can be made.
But a report by the committee warns that the current situation is ‘unsatisfactory’ and ‘poses a potential risk to patients’.
It adds: ‘We are disappointed that no substantive progress seems to have been made at European level in addressing the underlying issue of language testing of doctors.’
The MPs call on the Government to make it clear exactly what it is doing to change the law, and how long it is likely to take.
Figures show that as many as 23,000 doctors from Europe are registered to work in Britain despite never undergoing checks on their English or medical skills.
Andrew Lansley last year announced a temporary solution to the problem that costs lives. German GP Daniel Ubani (right) killed a 70-year-old patient after giving him 20 times the legal dose of morphine
Last year then health secretary Andrew Lansley announced a temporary solution to the problem under which hospitals and NHS trusts would appoint a senior doctor to carry out checks on foreign medics.
However, some organisations including the British Medical Association, have expressed concern that this system may not work because it will create too much work for the appointed doctor.
The MPs pointed out that such a solution was ‘no substitute’ for compulsory tests on doctors before they were even allowed to be registered.
They said that what was required was: ‘Revision of the European legislation which presently prohibits language testing of doctors on a national basis, and we press for a statement from the Government on the steps it is taking to seek revision of the relevant directive.’