The DH has announced that the GMC is to be given new powers to take action against doctors where there is concern about their language skills. In addition, the Medical Profession (Responsible Officers) Regulations will be amended so that those designated doctors within NHS bodies who are responsible for ensuring the competency of doctors working for that organisation will also be responsible for ensuring that they are proficient in English. If they are concerned they can ask the individual to undertake an English test or refer the matter to the GMC.

Unfortunately, it still remains the case that the GMC is not allowed to test all doctors from the European Union (EU) as a matter of course before they are placed on the GMC register as this is unlawful under EU Regulations. Interestingly the European Commission is currently reviewing the Professional Qualifications Directive to make it easier for professionals to work in other EU countries.

In response to the commission’s consultation on the directive, the NHS Confederation’s European Office is calling for exceptions to the Regulations to be made for healthcare staff stressing that UK regulatory bodies should be entitled to check the qualifications and competence of foreign medical staff, including language skills.