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Brexit could see tougher checks for EU GPs

EU GPs coming to the UK could be required to undertake more stringent language, skills and knowledge tests as a result of Britain leaving the European Union, the Parliamentary health select committee has said.

But they also warn the Government should take a ‘pragmatic’ approach to negotiations as making restrictions to practise too severe in the interest of patient safety could equally jeapordise care by exacerbating existing workforce problems.

In its ‘Brexit and health and social care – people and process’ report, MPs on the committee said that they supported the ‘principle’, put forward by the GMC, that EU doctors should have to demonstrate the same competencies as UK and non-EU doctors.

The report states that when giving evidence to the committee, GMC chief executive Charlie Massey said the competencies EU states require their GPs, and other doctors, to demonstrate ‘vary considerably’.

He said: ‘If you are going into general practice, it is a core part of our general practice training in the UK to be trained in paediatrics, antenatal and postnatal, but that does not apply in some southern European states because of the way in which their systems are organised.’

And he proposed that in this area leaving the EU could allow the UK to introduce a ‘common assessment for entering the [medical] register’ to provide more assurance of doctors standards.

The Health Committee report says: ‘We support the principle that all clinicians working in the UK should be asked to demonstrate relevant language, skills and knowledge competence.’

But it adds that ‘attention needs to be paid to the balance between patient safety, as served by regulatory rules which may restrict access to the profession, and patient safety as served by having a workforce sufficient to meet the country’s need.’

It says automatic recognition of some qualifications should be considered to prevent ‘bureacratic barriers’ preventing skilled clinicians coming to the NHS.

The report’s other recommendations include:

  • The need to assure Department of Health is represented in any Brexit negotiations concerning health, and to make public a list of issues the DH considers key in the negotiations.
  • That the Government should audit the NHS’s dependence on EU staff and the wider international workforce in low paid non-clinical posts as well as clinical ones.
  • Allow the medical profession to lead on exploring potential benefits and pitfalls should the UK no longer be bound by the EU working time directive, as well as considering how this could improve the new junior doctors contract.
  • And that the Government should seek to ‘preserve the existing system of reciprocal healthcare’ in the interests of hundreds of thousands of British citizens in the EU, and all those who regularly travel to the UK or Europe.