New measures to ensure language skills in doctors

  • Date: 18 April 2012

RESPONSIBLE officers will be empowered to ensure adequate language skills in any foreign doctor seeking to work in England, according to new proposals set out by the Health Secretary Andrew Lansley.

Currently doctors from outside the EU have to take rigorous language tests in order to be registered by the GMC but European laws make it illegal to systematically test EU doctors. Under proposals up for consultation, responsible officers around the country would work with the General Medical Council to ensure all non-UK doctors have adequate language skills as well as a firm understanding of NHS processes and medicines.

Health Secretary Andrew Lansley said: "Sadly, we are all too familiar with what can happen when qualified doctors don’t have a good command of English. This puts patients at risk and I am determined to stop this.

"By giving new powers to responsible officers we can make sure that doctors not only speak English before they treat patients in this country but are also competent to work within the NHS."

Niall Dickson, Chief Executive of the General Medical Council, said the GMC welcomes the new proposals, adding: "These changes would significantly strengthen the employer checks in England, with responsible officers having a legal duty to work closely with the GMC. These proposals, along with the Secretary of State’s commitment to changing the Medical Act to strengthen our powers, will mean that patients across all parts of the UK receive the assurances they need about the doctors who treat them."

The consultation will run for run for 14 weeks from 18 April to 25 July. Go to

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