Government putting NHS patient care at risk over EU red tape

Ministers have been accused of putting patient care and safety at risk by failing to endorse the concerns of the UK’s medical regulators over standards of doctors’ training across Europe.
Government putting NHS patient care at risk over EU red tapeThe criticism of the government comes just after the General Medical Council claimed the present system of mutual recognition of training across the 27 member states was not working and might undermine public confidence in healthcare. It demanded an urgent review of all national medical qualifications to prevent migrant foreign doctors working outside their own country in health systems they may not understand.

An 18-page document from the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) sent to the European commission this month on all professional qualifications covered by an 2005 EU directive did not specifically mention medical training. It did, however, raise concerns the present rules do not allow systematic language testing of EU doctors when they apply to join the UK medical register.

The issue of doctors’ training and their understanding of the differing health systems within the EU has come to the fore following the scandal over Daniel Ubani, a German doctor on his first UK shift as an out-of-hours GP, who accidentally killed a patient in 2008.

Labour’s shadow public health minister, Dianne Abbott, said: “David Cameron and Andrew Lansley are putting patient safety and standards of care at risk. The official government response on professional qualification does not include a single line about medical training, which is a travesty.

“To suggest that workers can operate in our healthcare system without proper training, assessments or being able to communicate with patients seems to me to be absurd.

“Whilst patient groups, professional bodies and health experts are all uniting in opposition to the NHS reorganisation, the Tory-led government has already abandoned any substantive commitment to minimum standards for doctors.”

A statement from BIS defended the department’s stance. “The European commission are chairing working groups of experts in medical education across the EU to look at the current minimum training standards for the main health professions, as part of the broader review of the mutual recognition of professional qualifications directive,” it said.

“They will look at each of the five health professions for which minimum standards are laid out in the directive, with a view to updating the training requirements and ensuring transparency. We are awaiting the outcome of these groups in April and May before considering this matter further.”


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