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'Little impact' from drug price deal

Proposed European laws could lead to a flood of 'dodgy doctors' entering the UK and undermine the powers of the GMC, the BMA is warning.

The rules could also allow some foreign doctors working in this country to perform treatments such as assisted suicide or late terminations which are illegal in the UK.

The threats come as a result of the Directive on Services in the Internal Market, which is intended to sweep away trade barriers and allow professionals to work in each EU member state.

Under the directive, to be discussed at a public hearing in the European Parliament this week, doctors working in another EU country on a temporary basis would be governed by the regulations of their home country.

Member states would not be allowed to impose their own laws unless they could prove they were 'non-discriminatory, necessary or proportional'.

The BMA said the EU regulations would 'pose a serious threat to patient safeguards'.

Dr Sandy Macara, the BMA's delegate to the European doctors organisation, the CPME, said he was 'deeply concerned' at the plans, which are scheduled to come into force from 2006.

'We might get a lot of dodgy doctors whose regulation is less adequate than ours. They would only be controlled by the home country ­ not the GMC,' he said. 'There are issues around the beginning and end of life, where we are deeply concerned.'

He added that foreign doctors might also be able to ignore UK clinical guidelines and prescribe drugs that are restricted in the UK

'There are lots of things which are freely available abroad which are restricted here. It might be hard to stop an EU doctor prescribing things which would not normally be allowed.'

A spokesman for the GMC agreed the directive posed 'serious issues'. But he added health care might be exempt, under rules relating to professional qualifications, and some rules could be set aside for public health reasons.

By Jack Shamash

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