GMC to check doctors' English skills

A tired GP GPs are among those whose English language skills could be checked

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The General Medical Council is to be given new powers to check the English-language skills of all doctors working in the UK, under government proposals.

At present it can only make language checks on doctors from outside Europe.

The government is carrying out a 12-week consultation on the changes.

In April, the government created a national list of doctors who can treat NHS patients. GPs wishing to be included will have to demonstrate their ability to speak English.

It also appointed senior doctors who have a legal duty to ensure all doctors in their local area can speak the necessary level of English to perform their job in a safe and competent manner.

On Saturday, Health Minister Dr Dan Poulter said: "Overseas doctors make a hugely valuable contribution to the NHS, but it is clear that tougher checks are needed.

"We have already strengthened the way doctors' language skills are checked at a local level.

"These new powers are an important step in making the system even stronger by allowing the GMC to carry out checks on a national level before they start work in the UK and prevent doctors who do not have the necessary knowledge of English from treating patients."

Niall Dickson, chief executive of the General Medical Council, said: "We are delighted.

"This is an important move that will help protect patients and will be welcomed across the country."


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  • rate this

    Comment number 46.

    An excellent idea. Although our doctor speaks very good english when it comes to seeing a locum or visiting A&E all too often we`re left struggling to get across our symptoms and medical history. I`m sure if this is implemented it would cut down waiting times and we would see fewer medical mistakes.

  • rate this

    Comment number 45.

    Surely we are being unreasonable.We are a multi culture so it is us that should learn their languages and be grateful they came here and took all our money for their generous altruistic service in the NHS.We should vacate our housing stock so they can have their better lives in our land.Keep our children out of school so theirs can have the places.After all they will need all their relatives here.

  • rate this

    Comment number 44.

    Language tests (the PLAB) have been part of normal procedure for any non EU doctor coming to this country for years. The EU however with its rules on free movement and employment had laws to prevent discrimination against EU workers on grounds of language. They haven't mentioned here how they're getting over these rules.
    Meanwhile, the BBC continue their crusade to present the NHS negativly

  • rate this

    Comment number 43.

    I wonder if they will get lessons in handwriting? The number of times I have had to help the Pharmacist decipher a family prescription does make me wonder.

  • rate this

    Comment number 42.

    I visited a doctor in Germany two years ago who spoke very good English, French and Swedish in addition to his native German. We joked about the poor language skills of 'the English' and he told me it was distressing to hear such a beautiful and expressive language misused by people who live here. I've had no problem communicating with foreign doctors in the UK but then I speak clearly.

  • rate this

    Comment number 41.

    Surely vets do a great job and they can't speak dog (with the possible exception of the legendary Dr Dolittle)

  • rate this

    Comment number 40.

    I wouldn't get my car fixed at a garage if I couldn't explain myself to the mechanic yet this dinosaur of 19th century practices rumbles on. Till the GMC puts patients at the centre of every consolation, every investigation and treats everyone as a individual entity with differing responses to every procedure they propose, will I start to believe they have an understanding of the human condition.

  • rate this

    Comment number 39.

    In 1987, my son was almost still-born because an Asian doctor treating my wife was unable to understand the instructions from her GP who had sent her to hospital for an emergency scan.

    The government and the GMC are ONLY 26 years too late to offer us help!

    I'm surprised that they are even doing this now, considering that the only function of the GMC is to protect doctors at all costs.

  • rate this

    Comment number 38.

    I would refuse to be treat by any doctor who could not understand me. The basic communication process is to send and receive with feedback.

    How does anybody get a job if they can't communicate and who interviewed them?

  • rate this

    Comment number 37.

    It does sort of make me wonder how these people got through their job interviews in the first place?

    A non-English Doctor could be the best Consultant the UK has ever seen, but if they cannot communicate with the Patient, and vice-versa, it really does nullify that effectiveness.

  • rate this

    Comment number 36.

    I can't say I've ever been to a doctor who didn't know English. However, I've met a fair few who didn't know medicine.

  • rate this

    Comment number 35.

    Comprehension and communication skills, as well as the ability to listen, have not always been a strong point in many GPs. I am amazed that this requirement has not been in place before. I imagine, from personal experience, that those who cannot speak English will never be reported by a fellow professional, given the amount of closing ranks and shunning that then results. They need to be forced.

  • rate this

    Comment number 34.

    31.Phil P

    Yes well, I think we could all make an educated guess about that, probably fear of the "r" word ?

  • Comment number 33.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 32.

    Wow!!! So at last they realise that doctors need to be able to speak and understand the English language. I just hope they also make sure nurses and others in contact with patients also have good spoken and understanding of English.

  • rate this

    Comment number 31.

    The real question should be why is the GMC so slow to undertake clearly essential checks like this?

  • rate this

    Comment number 30.

    5 Minutes ago
    Goodness gracious me.

    Report this comment (Comment number 22)
    Yes I thought that as well but you will be deleted.

  • rate this

    Comment number 29.

    While we are about it we should check the English doctors' English as well.

  • rate this

    Comment number 28.

    Nevermind the Doctors, everyone who comes here and lives here should be made to speak English. We have 3rd generation Immigrants who still dont speak English and expect the tax payer to fund translation services via Local councils. Public workers should be expected to speak clear English and understand local dialect, and councils should be stopped from using money for translation services.

  • rate this

    Comment number 27.

    This is outrageous and raises more questions than it answers.

    Why were we not able to check the standard of English from doctors from within the EU? Why was an English competency test not a mandatory part of the appointment process? Why did the GMC not consider this important enough previously that patients and colleagues could actually understand the doctor?

    This is people's lives!!!


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