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GMC Welcomes New Rules on the Movement of Doctors across Europe

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15 Nov 2013


New rules on the movement of health professionals across Europe are a major improvement in patient safety, according to the General Medical Council (GMC).

EU ministers today agreed that doctors, nurses and other health professionals moving to the UK from Europe will have to meet new patient safety requirements. The changes mean the GMC will be able to check a doctor’s language skills before he or she is allowed to practise in the UK.

A new alert system will also be introduced, requiring health regulators across Europe to warn each other within three days when a doctor or other health professional has been removed from its register, or has had his or her practice restricted.

Commenting on the decision, Niall Dickson, Chief Executive of the General Medical Council (GMC), said:

"This is a good day for patients. With our partners in Europe we have worked hard to bring about these changes which will close a serious gap in our regulatory defences.  

"Alongside changes to current UK law in 2014, they will give us the ability to check the language skills of doctors coming to work here from Europe. The new alert system is also a big step forward. If we are to protect patients, free movement of professionals must be accompanied by free movement of information."

The GMC will work closely with the UK government in the coming months to take this forward. The Department of Health and the GMC are consulting on changes to give the GMC new powers next year, which will enable the GMC to check the English language skills of doctors from Europe where there is a concern about their ability in this area.

The European legal change will allow the GMC to go further and require all doctors from Europe to show that they have the necessary language skills.  Member states have two years to introduce the changes.

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