Gaping hole in rules on foreign doctors, GMC says

A “gaping hole” in the rules on foreign doctors working in Britain is putting patients at risk, MPs have heard.

The General Medical Council has told the Health Select Committee that it is prevented from testing the qualifications of European locums.

Niall Dickson, the GMC chief executive said the council is forced to accept skills competency certificates and qualifications “at face value” and is not allowed by European law to check English language skills.

Mr Dickson told the House of Commons Health Select Committee the GMC cannot impose tests on doctors from the European Economic Area.

“For them we are not allowed to language test and we are not allowed to competency test,” he said.

Nor can the GMC query the value of medical qualifications held by European doctors.

“We can’t say that qualification doesn’t mean very much. If it’s approved and it’s on the European list we simply have to accept them.”

Mr Dickson said the restriction comes from a European Union directive ordering member states to allow workers to move freely around Europe.

He said: “Free movement of labour is fine but, in our view, patient safety trumps free movement of labour.”

The committee is investigating out hours care following the death of David Gray in Cambridgeshire in 2008.

He was killed by a German doctor, Daniel Ubani, who administered 10 times the normal dose of diamorphine.

Dr Ubani had flown to Britain to provide out of hours care under a contract from the local health authority.

In 2004, ministers gave GPs a controversial new contract that allowed them to give up responsibility for out-of-hours care.

Speaking to the committee, Mike O’Brien, a health minister, conceded that the 2004 contract had been flawed.

He said: “There are all sorts of things everyone might like to rewrite on that.

He added: “GPs got the best deal they’ve ever had on that. Ever since, we’ve been recovering from it. They probably all voted Labour in 2005.”


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