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Language competency rules for doctors “exist already”

9 April 2010

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Testing foreign doctors’ competency in the English language is not being prevented by EU rules, the European Commission has said.

The commission responded to a UK Commons committee call for a stricter vetting process for doctors from other countries who work in the UK, especially in how language competency is checked.

The Health Select Committee said it wants government ministers to pressure the EU to allow the General Medical Council to carry out the checks.

But the European Commission said current law already covers both temporary and permanent foreign doctors working in the UK.

A spokesman for the commission said: “Linguistic requirements (already) apply, so once a doctor is authorised to work in the UK they have to have the right knowledge of English to do their job properly.

Language competency levels vary depending on the medical job  – doctors dealing directly with the public need better English than, for example, laboratory staff.

The spokesman went on: “The Professional Qualifications Directive says that language requirements can be imposed but they need to be proportionate and on a case-by-case basis. The competent authority cannot impose a general test regardless of a doctor’s situation; they have to give the doctor an opportunity to demonstrate their level of English.”

Copyright © Press Association 2010

Professional Qualifications Directive

Related story: MPs hit out at NHS vetting procedures for foreign doctors