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Language test powers for GMC

25 February 2013

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Foreign doctors who want to work in the UK will be subject to language tests by the General Medical Council (GMC). 

Foreign doctors who want to work in the UK will be subject to language tests by the General Medical Council (GMC). 

Starting in April, the government hopes these changes will “strengthen patient safety” across the UK. 
‘Welcome development’
GMC currently ensures non-European doctors can speak a good level of English, but new powers will enable them to test doctors from inside the EU. 
Niall Dickson, GMC chief executive said it is a “welcome development”. 
He said: “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.” 
National GP list
A national list of GPs will be created to prevent doctors who have been rejected in one part of the country practising in another. 
From April, language skills will be a requirement for being put on the list.  
Health minister Dr Dan Poulter said the measures were about protecting patients, who "should be able to understand and be understood by their doctor if we are to give them the best care they deserve".
"These new checks will ensure that all doctors who want to work in the NHS can speak proficient English and to prevent those who can't from treating patients," he said.
Previously, every primary care trust (PCT) held a separate list of GPs. The government hopes a centrally held list will be better for patient safety.
New powers 
Proposals have been put forward to give the GMC the power to prevent doctors from being granted a license to practice where there are language concerns, from 2014.
The ability to investigate concerns over a doctor’s language skills and apply sanctions are up for consultation later this year the Department of Health said.  
Dan Poulter said: “There are lots of excellent doctors from around the world working in the NHS – this is simply about protecting patients and having proper checks on a doctor’s ability to speak English.” 

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