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Revealed: How PCTs have ignored call to test EU doctors

Exclusive: PCTs have ignored demands from the Government and the GMC to step up efforts to test EU doctors' clinical competence and language skills, with just a handful of doctors tested in the past 18 months.

A Pulse investigation in October 2010 sparked a national furore after revealing that only 23% of EU doctors registered to work as GPs in this country had been tested for language, and 17% for clinical competence.

The survey came amid rising concern about the language skills and qualifications of some doctors who trained in the EU in the wake of the Daniel Ubani case, and prompted ministers to promise urgent action.

But a new analysis of data supplied by trusts reveals that in the intervening period, only 4% of those doctors on performers lists who were untested have been checked for language or clinical skills.

Some 97 PCTs responded to our Freedom of Information request, with 51 able to provide data on testing rates, covering 792 EU doctors.

Just 25 EU doctors had been tested since October 2010 across the 51 trusts. None failed, but one GP was expelled from the performers list for refusing to take part in an appraisal. Some 46 trusts said they could not provide data on whether doctors had been checked, suggesting the true scale of the problem could be far greater.

The GPC said the findings were ‘extremely worrying', and suggested PCTs had struggled to fulfil their statutory functions against the backdrop of the NHS reforms. Dr Chaand Nagpaul, GPC negotiator and a GP in Stanmore, Middlesex, said: ‘It is extremely worrying if PCTs are not implementing performance tests, on the back of the adverse events in recent years. It does worry me that in this massive reorganisation of the NHS, PCTs have struggled to carry out their statutory functions.'

The figures come as NHS Suffolk announced it was toughening up its testing regime, with all prospective GPs who have not previously worked in the NHS to undergo face-to-face interviews before being accepted.