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Government restrictions on EU-trained doctors ‘not enough’

The Government's plans to tighten restrictions on EU-trained doctors working in the UK do not go far enough and should include an assessment of clinical competence, says the GP son of a man killed by a German out-of-hours doctor.

Mr Gray's son, Kidderminster GP Dr Stuart Gray, said he welcomed the introduction of mandatory language testing before EU-trained doctors are allowed to practise in the NHS, but called on the Government to ensure the GMC could extend clinical competence requirements to EU doctors.

Health secretary Andrew Lansley announced this week that the Department of Health will hand responsible officers powers to ensure EU doctors' language skills are vetted, and give the GMC new powers to take action against doctors' with a poor grasp of English.

However, Pulse understands that EU employment law still prohibits the GMC from testing EU-doctors' clinical competence via the Professional and Linguistic Assessments Board test – the clinical and language assessment used to test other International doctors.

Dr Gray told Pulse: ‘I have seen nothing from the DH about tackling the clinical competence issue and this is of major concern,' he said. ‘In my father's case Ubani was found to be grossly clinically incompetent by both the coroner and GMC.'

‘Loop-holes have been significantly tightened but not closed. The gold standard must be vetting of clinical competence and language skills at the GMC registration stage, as for non-EEA doctors.'

Calls for improved testing of EU doctors have intensified in the three years since the unlawful killing of 70-year-old patient David Gray, who was given an overdose of diamorphine by German locum Dr Daniel Ubani on his first GP out-of-hours shift in the UK after the doctor confused it with another drug.

A Pulse investigation last year found that fewer than a quarter of EU doctors from outside the UK registered to work in this country as GPs have been tested for their language skills and clinical competence.

The BMA and GMC backed the introduction of mandatory language tests. Dr Hamish Meldrum, BMA chair, said: ‘These changes are a positive way forward and should help close the loophole that has allowed doctors with inadequate English language skills to work in this country.'