Updated proposals for foreign doctors’ language checks would allow the General Medical Council (GMC) to assess a doctor if concerns arise during a fitness-to-practice investigation.
The GMC could be able to undertake an assessment regardless of nationality, the government has proposed.
Cover both new and existing doctors the suggestions build on existing powers introduced earlier this year.
Responsible officers now have a legal duty to ensure a doctor can speak the necessary level of English to perform their job safely and competently.
GMC chief executive Niall Dickson said: “We are delighted that the government is consulting on changes to the Medical Act to give us new powers to check the English language skills of all doctors when we have concerns about them.
“This is an important move that will help protect patients and will be welcomed across the country.”
Health Minister Dr Dan Poulter said: “Overseas doctors make a hugely valuable contribution to the NHS but it is clear that tougher checks are needed. We have already strengthened the way doctors’ language skills are checked at a local level.
“These new powers are an important step in making the system even stronger by allowing the GMC to carry out checks on a national level before they start work in the UK.”