Consultation on language checks for dentists

A CONSULTATION has been launched on a draft policy to introduce English language checks for dentists who want to work in the UK.

The government unveiled plans late last year to extend language testing to include clinicians from EU countries. Previous laws only allowed checks on those from outside the European economic area.

The new powers mean the General Dental Council can now ask for evidence of a dental professional’s language skills prior to registration. It can do this if there are concerns they don’t have sufficient knowledge of English.

Would-be registrants who are unable to provide evidence of their abilities will be asked to take an English language test.

The GDC has launched a consultation to gather views on the type of information that will be accepted as evidence of language skills; the use of the International English Language Testing System (IELTS) exam to assess applicants; and whether the draft guidance should be applied to all applicants, including those who have trained and qualified from within the European Economic Area (EEA) and those who have trained from outside the EEA (non-EEA).

It is thought the new powers will come into effect in March 2016. They must be enforced “proportionately” and so will apply to all dental professionals wishing to register or restore their registration with the GDC. This includes dentists seeking to re-register when they have failed to pay their annual retention fee.

EU law forbids a "blanket" approach to assessing English knowledge so the GDC would be unable, for example, to require English tests from all EEA applicants.

The government’s consultation document published last year offered reassurance to UK clinicians, 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."

The consultation is open until January 4, 2016 on the GDC website.