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EU rules pose ‘unacceptable risk’

19 October 2011

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EU rules allowing medics to practise throughout Europe pose an “unacceptable risk” to patient safety, says a House of Lords committee report.

Published today (19 October 2011), the Mobility of Healthcare Professionals report says the directive governing movement within the EU “strikes the wrong balance between allowing healthcare professionals to work in other EU countries and ensuring the safety of patients.”

The Lords committee says the language skills of all non-UK medical applicants should be tested by regulatory bodies including the GMC and the Nursing and Midwifery Council.

It also calls for an alert mechanism enabling authorities to share fitness to practise information and warn each other about practitioners who have been subject to disciplinary proceedings.

The issue has particular resonance in general practice following the death of a 70-year-old man, David Gray, in 2008 from a huge overdose of the painkiller diamorphione administered by a German locum GP, Dr Daniel Ubani.

A coroner last year ruled that Gray had been “unlawfully killed” by Ubani, who had flown into the UK and had a few hours’ sleep before starting the 12-hour shift in which he saw Gray.

Ubani was given a suspended sentence in Germany for death by negligence but is still licensed to work there.

Calling for changes to the directive, Committee Chair Baroness Young of Hornsey, said: “It is absolutely unacceptable that current EU rules put patients in the UK and elsewhere at risk.

“From regulating bodies being forced to accredit candidates who may not meet UK standards to the fact that there is no way for prospective employers to check an applicant’s disciplinary history thoroughly, the EU is failing our patients.

“We recognise that mobility within the EU can bring significant benefits, but we have to make sure that this is not at the expense of patients’ health, care and confidence.

“Employing doctors, nurses, midwives, pharmacists and dentists from outside the UK can help to provide patients with the best possible treatment but may also expose them to unacceptable risks.”