EU doctors three times more likely to face disciplinary action for poor

first_imgDr Tomasz Fryzlewicz, 56, a Polish heart doctor who had worked in the NHS since 2006 was the first to face restrictions under the new rules after failing the language test three times.But Britain was banned from testing European doctors for their clinical language skills because UK doctors do not have to face similar tests.The Patients Association said it was concerned that poor communication was leading to mistakes and misunderstandings between patients and medics.Katherine Murphy, chief executive of the Patients Association, said: “We hear from patients via our helpline that there are real issues with healthcare professionals from other countries, including problems with communication and a lack of understanding of processes and procedures.“If the NHS employs healthcare professionals from other countries, it must ensure that they are fully qualified and competent to carry out their duties and that they are competent enough in English to safely and effectively communicate with patients.“We are concerned that poor English skills may lead to mistakes and misunderstandings between healthcare colleagues or when patients are trying to explain their problems.” The RCS also said it was disappointing that the General Dental Council and Nursing and Midwifery Council had lower requirements for language proficiency than the GMC and has called for them to raise the bar.Dr Nigel Carter, of the Oral Health Foundation, said: “There are many excellent dental professionals coming to work in the UK from the EEA but some are hindered by an initial misunderstanding of clinical English language skills which could lead to communication issues and misinformation in the dentist/patient relationship.“These could develop into more serious problems if they are allowed to propagate and I support the RCS in their call for discussion about this while there is the opportunity for change following the recent referendum result.”A Department of Health spokesman said: “Patient safety is of the utmost importance, and we expect all healthcare professionals working in the UK to have a good command of the English language.”That is why we have tough rules, allowing the GMC and individual employers to test employees at and beyond the initial point of employment – and these cases represent just 0.002% of NHS staff.” Dr Tomasz Fryzlewicz, 56, a Polish heart doctor faced restrictions after failing an English test three times  However, those from outside Europe must pass the Professional and Linguistic Assessments Board (PLAB) to demonstrate  they know medical terms, are clear about consent, can adequately describe a procedure and are aware of treatment side effects.“The number of EEA doctors and dentists facing allegations relating to their communication skills is an issue we think the Government should be taking very seriously,” said Professor Nigel Hunt, Dean of the Faculty of Dental Surgery at the Royal College of Surgeons.“Currently EU law makes it impossible to insist applicants demonstrate their English skills in a clinical setting. However, post-Brexit negotiations offer an excellent opportunity to change this and ensure that testing is vigorous enough to ensure patient safety.“While the professional regulators are able to require proof of the clinical language skills of non-EU applicants, the same checks do not apply to EEA applicants and our fear is that this could be putting patients at risk.“We want the same rules to apply to all non-UK professionals, regardless of where in the world they come from.”Data from the General Dental Council also showed that one quarter of complaints made about poor communication related to European dentists even though they account for just 16 per cent of the workforce. Just 4.7 per cent related to practitioners from the rest of the world, who make up 11.5 per cent of dentists.Since basic language testing came into force in 2014, the GMC said more than 1,000 European doctors seeking registration in the UK have not satisfied their English language requirements. Dr Tomasz Fryzlewicz, 56, a Polish heart doctor faced restrictions after failing an English test three times  European doctors are three times more likely to face disciplinary proceedings for poor English than those from further afield because they are exempt from stringent language tests under EU law, the Royal College of Surgeons has warned.The RCS claims that the safety of patients is at risk from medics who cannot communicate properly and is calling for the rules to be changed during Brexit negotiations.Freedom of Information data from the General Medical Council showed that 29 doctors from the European Economic Area (EEA) faced allegations relating to ‘inadequate knowledge of the English language’ during 2014 and 2015.Four doctors have since been suspended or had restrictions placed on their practice with a number of cases still to be decided by the GMC.By comparison just 10 doctors from outside Europe faced similar allegations even though they make up more than double the number of doctors, nurses or dentists as those from the continent – 26 per cent compared with 11 per cent.Under rules which came into force in 2014 doctors applying to the NHS from Europe only need to score 7.5 on the International English Language Testing System, which equates to basic conversational skills.center_img Nurses and dentists still do not have to pass the same English language qualifications as doctors Nurses on a ward  Want the best of The Telegraph direct to your email and WhatsApp? 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