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EU law clarifies ‘freedom of movement’

18 November 2013

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New rulings on freedom of movement for workers across the EU have been welcomed by the General Medical Council (GMC). 

The new legislations aim to “clarify, facilitate and better apply” workers freedom of movement, but does not impose new obligations on member states. 

Health professionals will have to meet new patient safety requirements, EU ministers agreed. 

The changes mean the GMC will be able to check a doctor’s language skills before he or she is allowed to practice in the UK.

Health regulators across Europe will have to warn each other within three days when a doctor or other health professional has been removed from its register, or has had his or her practice restricted.

GMC chief executive Niall Dickson, said: “With our partners in Europe we have worked hard to bring about these changes which will close a serious gap in our regulatory defences. 

“Alongside changes to current UK law in 2014, they will give us the ability to check the language skills of doctors coming to work here from Europe. The new alert system is also a big step forward. If we are to protect patients, free movement of professionals must be accompanied by free movement of information.”

The Department of Health and the GMC are consulting on changes to give the GMC new powers next year, which will enable the GMC to check the English language skills of doctors from Europe where there is a concern about their ability in this area.

The European legal change will allow the GMC to go further and require all doctors from Europe to show that they have the necessary language skills.  Member states have two years to introduce the changes.