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BMA voices concern over foreign doctors’ English skills

29 June 2010

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Tighter rules are needed to ensure doctors from overseas have the necessary skills and good English, the chairman of the British Medical Association has said.

Dr Hamish Meldrum (pictured) said the UK had benefited enormously from overseas doctors.

But new rules were needed to continue this without a repeat of the case of Dr Daniel Ubani, he said.

Nigerian-born Dr Ubani was struck off the medical register after killing a pensioner with an overdose of painkillers on his first and only shift in the UK.

He injected David Gray, 70, with 100mg of a pain relief drug – 10 times the recommended dose.

Dr Ubani was struck off after being found guilty of making “recurrent mistakes” in caring for Mr Gray and two other patients.

Speaking at the BMA’s conference in Brighton, Dr Meldrum said the UK “seemed to be able to do little or nothing to check that doctors from overseas – especially from Europe – meet the proper standards of language and competence.”

He said the UK had benefited enormously from overseas doctors and would continue to do so but the Ubani case “has shocked us all”.

He added: “It cannot be acceptable for poorly trained, badly regulated doctors whose knowledge of English is about as good as my knowledge of Chinese, to be able to practise – virtually unchallenged – in the UK.”

The government and the General Medical Council (GMC), which regulates doctors, are currently in discussion about EU rules which prevent the GMC from being able to test the language ability or clinical competence of overseas doctors.

Niall Dickson, chief executive of the GMC, has said it “remains extremely concerned that the current arrangements do not provide patients with the protection they need”.

Copyright © Press Association 2010

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