The House of Lords calls for more checks for EU clinicians working in the UK

02 Nov 2011

The House of Lords has recently published a report highlighting that EU rules could be putting patients at risk.

The House of Lords EU Committee, chaired by Lady Young of Hornsey, called for measures to be put in place as a matter of urgency to check the competency, experience and language skills of foreign doctors, midwives, dentists and pharmacists.

The Committee considered that the current EU rules are unacceptable and put patients at risk. It commented that under these rules medical regulating bodies were being forced to accredit candidates who may not necessarily meet UK standards and that there is no way for prospective employers in this area to check an applicant's disciplinary history.

Under the current system the General Medical Council, the UK's medical regulator, can only check the competence and language skills of applicants from outside the EU, when applications for UK registration are made. In order for this to be extended to include EU clinicians, member states must agree for a new directive to be put in place.

However this report goes on to warn that the European Commission's timetable specifies that any such changes would not come into effect until 2017. Despite this, the health secretary, Andrew Lansley, has already confirmed that he would look to increase measures in areas not bound by EU Law in the near future.

The report follows on from previous criticism of the current system by the heads of the General Medical Council and the Royal College of GPs almost 2 years ago who agreed that they considered the current system put patient's safety at risk. This condemnation had arisen in the wake of an incident when a German doctor accidently killed a patient, with an overdose of the painkiller diamorphine over 10 times the recommended dose, on his first shift as a GP in the UK in 2008.

James Braund, Clinical Negligence Solicitor with Trethowans LLP, says "Patient safety and the reduction of medical negligence incidents should be the top priority. This further report highlighting the dangers with the current system is welcome however it remains a significant concern that any changes may not come into effect for a further 6 years despite the notable negligent incidents which have already taken place."