Language checks for dentists

LANGUAGE checks are set to be introduced for European dentists coming to the UK under new government proposals.

A consultation is underway into plans to ensure clinicians from EU countries can speak fluent English.

Currently, tests only apply to those from countries outside the EU. Laws are already in place to check the English skills of doctors coming to the UK from Europe.

The changes would give the General Dental Council the power to carry out “proportionate language controls on European applicants” and to take fitness to practise action where concerns are raised about the language skills of existing dental practitioners.

The new rules would apply across the UK to dentists and dental care professionals.

The consultation document states: “This will ensure that healthcare professionals on their registers have a sufficient knowledge of the English language to enable them to practise safely in the UK.”

EU rules on equality mean all dentists – not just non-EU practitioners – would have to show they have the “necessary knowledge of English” to practise in the UK.

However, the consultation document offers reassurance, stating: “For graduates of UK universities, the fact that the registrar will be able to rely on the information supplied by applicants with their registration application should mean that a registrar should be able to be satisfied about the English language ability of UK qualified applicants with no additional procedural burden.”

Health minister Dan Poulter said the measures were designed to protect patient safety.

He said: “We greatly value the contributions that healthcare professionals from all over the world have contributed, and continue to contribute, to our NHS but it is essential that they have a sufficient knowledge of the English language in order to provide safe patient care.

"Ministers from the four UK health departments are firmly committed to improving public protection by preventing healthcare professionals who do not have sufficient knowledge of English from working in the UK."

The consultation runs until December 15, 2014.