Commissioner: NHS responsible for foreign doctors' language skills

20 Jan 2012 | Posted by Carl Thomas

Michel Barnier, the EU commissioner for the internal market, has stated that the suitability of doctors from the EU who are working in Britain, as well as those in the country on UK work permits, are the responsibility of the NHS.

Speaking to the Telegraph, he explained that it is a myth that the country is unable to ban foreign doctors from working in the UK if their English is not up to scratch, adding that health ministers and those in charge of the NHS have looked to put blame on EU rulings following incidents of poor standards of care involving foreign doctors.

As with UK work permits for the majority of professions, applicants from outside of the EU looking to work as doctors in this country are routinely tested on their English language ability before being allowed to register with the General Medical Council.

However, those from within the EU are not subject to the same UK immigration scrutiny, but, Mr Barnier has now clarified, they should still be scrutinised by their employers.

He stated in the paper: "EU law does not say that a cursory look at people's qualifications should be enough to give them a job where lives and health are at stake. Doctors' suitability for the role they will be performing should be properly scrutinised by those who will be employing them."

Mr Barnier clarified that language skills are "a matter for member states", noting that while language checks are "not explicitly imposed by EU law … neither are they outlawed".