NINE out of 10 UK respondents to a recent consultation feel that the GMC should have the power to require a doctor to undergo a language assessment when there is a serious concern about their knowledge of English.
An equal number also agreed that European doctors unable or unwilling to show they have the necessary knowledge of English should be denied the right to practice in the UK.
New checks on language skills among overseas doctors are expected to come into force in June. Under current legislation, the GMC can assess overseas doctors applying to work in the UK, but not those from other countries within the European Union.
The changes will require doctors from other European countries to provide evidence of their English skills or undergo a language assessment if the GMC has concerns over the ability to communicate effectively with patients.
The GMC also announced that from the summer, all overseas doctors who take a test to demonstrate their English language skills will need to achieve an overall score of 7.5 out of 9 in the International English Language Testing System (IELTS) test. This is higher than the current requirement of a score of 7.
Niall Dickson, Chief Executive of the GMC, said: "Doctors who want to practise in the UK must be able to communicate effectively in English to ensure the safety of their patients.
"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.
"These are important steps to tighten up our procedures. But, while we welcome the Government’s support for our determination to achieve reform in this area, there is more to do. 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."