Under European law the GMC is not allowed to check the skills or competence of doctors coming to the UK from the rest of Europe.
| We believe that the introduction of the European professional card for doctors would further jeopardise our ability to protect patients in the UK|
| Niall Dickson|
That has long been a matter of serious concern, but from January 2016, a new ‘European professional card’ will be introduced for many health professionals which means the UK will be reliant on regulators in other European countries to make sure those coming to work here have the correct documents and qualifications.
The card will apply initially to nurses, pharmacists, and physiotherapists but it is expected to be applied to doctors from 2018.
The GMC – and many other European regulators – believe this could further weaken their ability to check that the doctors coming here are safe to practise.
The GMC is concerned that:
The GMC wants a full investigation of the impact of the card system before it is extended to doctors. It has also called on the government to include patient safety in its negotiations over the UK’s role in the European Union.
- The amount of time for checking doctors’ qualifications will be cut in half.
- It will rely on the doctors’ home state regulator to check the qualifications.
- We will lose all direct contact with the doctor and will have to rely on the doctors’ home state regulator to verify documents for us.
- Member states will not be required to check the new pan-European doctor warning system which highlights any safety concerns about individuals when it comes into force in January 2016.
Niall Dickson, Chief Executive of the General Medical Council, said:
“The UK has long relied on professionals from all over the world to run the NHS and we continue to depend on their skill and dedication.
“But there are major weaknesses in the regulatory system and it must be right that every country in the EU should be able to check that doctors coming to work within their borders have the competency, skills and cultural understanding to treat its patients safely.
“We believe that the introduction of the European professional card for doctors would further jeopardise our ability to protect patients in the UK.
“We are calling on the European Commission to undertake a full, independent assessment of the impact of the card on nurses, pharmacists and physiotherapists in order to identify any patient safety concerns before it is extended to doctors.
“We are also calling on the UK Government to include patient safety considerations in their negotiations on the future UK membership. A commitment to improve patient safety should be part of any continued membership of the EU’.
Figures published in the GMC’s 2015, The state of medical education and practice in the UK, show a sharp increase in the number of doctors coming here from certain European countries. Around 10% (24,000) of doctors currently working in the UK qualified in other European states.
Without proper checks, patients are at risk – last year reforms to UK law were secured which allowed us to check that doctors from the rest of Europe have the necessary English language skills to practise safely.
Since then more than 900 doctors from Europe have been denied a licence to practise because they have not provided evidence that they have the necessary knowledge of English to practise safely in the UK.
The GMC is also taking action against some European doctors already practising here who do not have the necessary language skills - one doctor has been suspended and another ordered to retake the English language test.
At the same time the GMC has called on employers to play their part in making sure patients are protected from poor
|Employers must make sure that every doctor they take on has the correct qualifications and experience to undertake that role successfully|
| Niall Dickson|
Niall Dickson added:
“Employers must make sure that every doctor they take on has the correct qualifications and experience to undertake that role successfully. We are working with employer organisations to promote this message – they cannot rely on GMC registration alone and must satisfy themselves on both the language skills and competency of any doctor they employ”.