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Language checks for EU doctors

26 February 2014

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European doctors hoping to work in the UK will face new language checks from the General Medical Council (GMC) from June, it has been revealed. 

Currently, the GMC assesses overseas doctors applying to work in the UK, but not those from other countries in the European Union. 

The update will mean doctors from European countries will have to provide evidence of their English skills, or undergo a language assessment if the GMC has concerns over whether he or she will be able to communicate effectively with patients. 

From the summer, all overseas doctors will also need to achieve a higher score on their English language skills tests than they do now – raised from 7 out of nine on the International English Language Testing System to 7.5. 

A consultation by the GMC appears to have found strong support for the changes. 

Niall Dickson, chief executive of the GMC, said: “These new measures to ensure doctors from other European countries can communicate in English, combined with the higher test score requirements, will help us strengthen protection for patients. They will also bring about a greater degree of fairness between our requirements for European doctors and for those from outside Europe.

“This is part of a package of measures that will further increase our scope to make sure that doctors coming to the UK from the European Union are able to communicate safely. Employers, including locum agencies, must also play their part, and ensure that all doctors for whom they are responsible can communicate and practise safely.”

Bill McMillan, head of medical pay and workforce at the NHS Employers organisation, said: “Employers have told us that they overwhelmingly support the GMC’s conclusions and, in particular, its aim to regulate doctors from Europe to the same language standard as those from further afield. 

“These are proportionate, sensible proposals that put patients first by giving employers more power to ensure all NHS doctors can communicate well in English. Language checks in their current form are improving and widely seen as robust, so it is important that they be applied consistently by employers across all jobs – regardless of where the staff are recruited from.”