CURRENT rules which allow healthcare professionals to practise throughout the EU pose an unacceptable risk to the safety of patients according to a new Parliamentary report published this month.
The House of Lords Social Policies and Consumer Protection EU Sub-Committee has concluded that the Mutual Recognition of Professional Qualifications Directive governing the mobility of healthcare professionals within the EU strikes the wrong balance between allowing healthcare professionals to work in other EU countries and ensuring the safety of patients.
In its report, the committee calls for regulatory bodies such as the GMC and the GDC to be allowed to test the language skills of all non-UK applicants. It also wants to see an alert mechanism implemented so that authorities can share fitness to practise information and warn each other about practitioners who have been subject to disciplinary proceedings. The report calls for the list of qualifications and skills recognised by the EU Directive to be updated.
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."
Welcoming publication of the report Safety First: Mobility of Healthcare Professionals in the EU, the Chief Executive of the General Medical Council, Niall Dickson, said: "The Committee is right; the safety of patients should always come first. Like us, they believe that current EU rules are putting patients at risk and urgent changes are needed."
Sir Richard Thompson, president of the Royal College of Physicians, said: "While the report makes clear and substantive recommendations to improve patient safety in the long-term, we hope that it will also accelerate action in the short-term, including immediate efforts to clarify the precise responsibilities of employers and the competent authorities for assessing language so as to reduce the current confusion."