GMC statement: GMC welcomes government plans on language testing powers

The General Medical Council (GMC) today welcomed government plans to give the medical regulator new powers to check the language skills of doctors from Europe.

Niall Dickson, Chief Executive of the General Medical Council, said:

‘This is good news for patients – the Health Minister’s announcement today will help strengthen patient safety across the UK.

‘Our position is clear – patients must be confident that the doctor who treats them has the right communications skills to do the job.

‘If doctors cannot speak English to a safe standard then the GMC must be able to protect patients by preventing them from practising in the UK.

‘At present we can do that for doctors who have qualified outside Europe but we cannot do it for doctors within the European Union.

‘The government has signalled today that it wants to give us new powers to test the communication skills of these doctors and close this gap in our regulatory defences. This would require a change in the Medical Act.

‘This is a very welcome development – we have been working hard for some time to close this loophole in UK legislation which has caused so much concern to patients and their families and we are delighted that the government has decided to act.

‘We will continue to work with the Department of Health to make these changes as quickly as possible.

‘We are also working here and in Europe to change European law to give us further powers in this area. It is right that professionals should be able to move freely around Europe, but never at the expense of patient safety.’