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Foreign doctors’ language skills unchecked

80% of EU doctors who are working as GPs in the NHS have never had their language skills tested, a freedom of information request has shown.

This comes after calls to tighten up assessment, following the case of Dr Ubani, a foreign doctor who gave an accidental overdose to a patient, resulting in his death.

The Care Quality Commission recommended that PCTs conduct their own assessments before hiring doctors from abroad, but only around a third responded to the request. This means that there could be more doctors working with their language skills unchecked.

“It is extremely worrying if PCTs are not implementing performance tests, on the back of the adverse events in recent years,” says Dr Chaand Nagpaul, a negotiator for the BMA’s GP committee.

“It does worry me that in this massive re-organisation of the NHS, PCTs have struggled to carry out their statutory functions.”

A spokesman for the NHS Confederation’s Primary Care Trust Network says, “We cannot stress enough how important it is for patients that the NHS gets this right.

“The case of Dr Daniel Ubani revealed weaknesses in the way some locum services were commissioned, and the checks on the people providing those services.

“These latest findings suggest that there is still significant variation in the checks that PCTs are performing on EU-trained GPs. PCTs need to scrutinise their current arrangements and ensure they have robust mechanisms in place to scrutinise the quality care foreign EU doctors provide to local NHS services.

“The NHS commissioning structure is currently undergoing significant change and we cannot afford for this issue to slip through the net. The service will need clear, concise and consistent guidance from the NHS Commissioning Board on the process for testing foreign doctors on their language and competency capabilities.”