This site is intended for health professionals only

DH to proceed with plans for responsible officers to check GP language competency

In its consultation on draft amendments to the responsible officer role, the DH said language checking should form part of pre-appointment checks by responsible officers to ensure patients are not put at risk by someone who could not communicate clearly in English.

While EU law currently prevents the Government writing this into the regulations, the DH said they are ‘continuing to explore’ the details of whether mandatory language checks could be written into legislation.

They are also proposing to give the NHS Commissioning Board the power to issue guidance on language checks, which responsible officers will have to follow.

The draft rules have been developed after an earlier consultation on the plans in April, with the NHS Commissioning Board becoming the body responsible for CCGs and GPs, as the DH said concerns over conflicts of interests could be mitigated.

Rather than the deaneries, Local Education and Training Boards (LETBs) will be appointed as the responsible officer for postgraduate trainees, apart from the Wales Deanery, the Defence Deanery and the National Deanery for Pharmaceutical Medicine, which exist outside of LETBs.

The consultation document said: ‘We have decided that the only change to the regulations we will make at this time is to clarify that responsible officers in England must ensure that medical practitioners have sufficient knowledge of English language necessary for the work to be performed.’

‘This will form part of the pre-appointment checks that any good organisation will carry out to ensure that patients are not put at risk by someone who cannot communicate clearly in English.’