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Three-quarters of doctors who are struck off in Britain are trained abroad Figures reveal majority of doctors struck off were trained abroadGeneral Medical Council figures show largest number were trained in IndiaStatistics have raised concerns at the training of doctors from abroad
01:27 GMT, 31 December 2012
Three out of four doctors struck off the medical register this year were trained abroad, figures show.
It means that those who qualified overseas were over five times more likely to be struck off than British graduates.
The data comes amid growing alarm that many foreign doctors are simply not up to scratch, putting the safety of patients at risk.
David Gray, left, died when Dr Daniel Ubani gave him a lethal overdose on his first shift providing out of hours care in the UK, while Nicola Sams, right, died after Dr Navin Shankar missed her cancer for six years
Three quarters of doctors who have been struck off in the last year were trained abroad
There is also concern that European law prevents doctors from the Continent from having their ability to speak English tested.
While those from outside the EU sit tests of language and competency before being placed on the medical register, one paper is a multiple-choice exam that can be taken over and over again.
The General Medical Council has now promised to introduce measures to ensure foreign doctors face a more rigorous assessment.
Critics say many of the problems can be traced back to the introduction of a lucrative new contract for GPs under the last Labour government. This allowed them to opt out of out-of-hours work.
The Working Time Directive, which limits the working week to 48 hours, has also pushed up demand for locums, some of them flown in.
The figures, revealed through a Freedom of Information Request, show that 194 of the 285 doctors struck off for misconduct or incompetence in the past five years were foreign-trained, while 29 of the 39 removed from the medical register in the past year received their medical degree overseas.
Julia Manning, chief executive of 202 Health, has said the assessment of doctors coming into the country should be reviewed
With only one-third of the 250,000 doctors on the medical register trained outside the UK, this means that those from overseas were more than five times more likely than British doctors to be banned.
The data, from the GMC, shows India has the largest number of doctors struck off in Britain since 2008, followed by Nigeria and Egypt.
Hong Kong has the best record, with none of more than 700 doctors working here struck off or disciplined in the past five years.
New Zealand’s 600 medics also have a clean record.
Julia Manning, chief executive of the 2020 Health think-tank, said: ‘These figures are really worrying and shocking. We need to take a hard look at the assessment of all doctors coming into the country.’
She questioned whether foreign-trained locums are familiar with British medical practices, adding: ‘If I was a hospital chief executive, I would check just how rigorously we have assessed our own doctors.’
Roger Goss, of campaign group Patient Concern, said money may help buy medical qualifications in some countries. Fear of reprisals may mean health professionals are less willing to report colleagues based in Britain, he claimed.
Umesh Prahbu, vice-chairman of the British International Doctors’ Association, said: ‘The NHS is known for having problems with discrimination and racism and I think this is part of it.’
Dr Prahbu, who trained in India, said that the technical training there is similar to that in Britain – but it is more difficult to learn the ‘softer’ skills needed and to ensure that patients feel they are being treated courteously.
Dr Jerome Ikwueke, left, was suspended for 12 months in July 2010 after failing to spot the abuse of Baby P, while Dr Freddy Patel, right, was struck off in August after the botched post-mortem of Ian Tomlinson
Dr Vivienne Nathanson, of the British Medical Association, said: ‘It is clear that doctors who have qualified overseas are more likely to be subject to disciplinary action. However, more research is needed to understand why this is the case.
‘The UK is still short of doctors and so we must ensure that those who come from overseas are given adequate support to be able to practise medicine in the UK.’
GMC chief executive Niall Dickson said: ‘We absolutely acknowledge that when it comes to the serious end of the scale, those from overseas are more likely to appear, and we have set about a series of reforms to address this.’
This includes a requirement that all doctors working the UK undergo annual appraisals.
An induction scheme for all doctors new to the health service is to be piloted and the tests for non-EU doctors are being reviewed.
THE NHS BLUNDERS WHICH COST MILLIONS IN COMPENSATION
Eight patients a week are left brain-damaged, blind or missing an arm or leg due to NHS blunders.
In 2010-11 alone, more than 30million paid out to those who lost a limb or left blind or suffering a brain injury as a result of careless and incompetent medical staff.
There were 215 claims in that year for brain damage – and almost 12million paid out.
The NHS Litigation Authority handled 134 claims involving the amputation of a limb, at cost to the taxpayer of 18million.
There were also 56 claims for blindness in England.
Since 1998, at least 1,500 people have sued over a lost limb, 2,860 for brain damage and 809 over being blinded.
When all types of medical negligence are taken into account, the NHS paid out a record 1.3billion in 2010/11.
A 46 per cent increase on the previous year, the total includes a small amount for non-medical claims, including slips and falls in hospitals.
The rise is blamed on no-win, no fee lawyers, who sometimes pocket far more money than the patients they represent.
Tory MP Chris Skidmore, a member of the Commons health select committee said: 'Where there is negligence and poor performance, we shouldn't be afraid to root it out.
'We must put patients first if we are to have a world-class NHS.'
Catherine Dixon, chief executive of the NHS Litigation Authority said: 'In general the NHS is very safe but if an NHS patient has suffered injury as a result of a mistake, it is right that they are financially compensated.
'We aim to help reduce claims by working with the NHS to prevent mistakes from happening in the first place.'
BY FIONA MACRAE