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Lawyers Welcome Rule That Foreign Doctors Will Have To Undergo Language Tests

Medical Law Expert Says Tests Are Vital To Ensure Patients Receive Highest Standard Of Care


Medical law experts at Irwin Mitchell have welcomed the government’s decision to introduce a legal duty to ensure doctors have a basic level of the English language before they can treat patients in the UK.

From April, foreign doctors wanting to work for the NHS will need to prove that they have a grasp of English to ensure examples of poor language skills cannot slip through the net and put patient safety at risk.

Those coming to the UK from outside the EU already face strict language tests, but doctors from within the European Economic Area are said to have registered to work in the NHS without being asked if they can speak English properly.

The Government is proposing to give the General Medical Council (GMC) new powers to prevent all doctors from being granted a licence to practise medicine in the UK where concerns arise about their ability to speak English.

Ministers are also introducing a single national list which every GP will have to be on before treating NHS patients. Previously every Primary Care Trust held a list of GPs.

David Body, who heads the medical law and patients’ rights team at Irwin Mitchell, said:  “We welcome the government’s decision on this issue, as any communication problems can lead to confusion and uncertainty in diagnosing consenting and treating patients – accurate communication of complex information to patients is fundamental to safe treatment.

"Giving powers to the GMC will ensure that doctors not only speak good English before they treat patients in this country but that those doctors are also competent to work within the NHS and to operate its many complex systems, will ensure that they understand that first rate patient care is expected and must be delivered.

“It is vital that the right measures, such as language tests, are put in place which will ensure the treatment of patients is always carried out to the required high standard.”

Read more about Irwin Mitchell's expertise relating to Medical Negligence