Scores of doctors fail new language tests

More than 100 European doctors have been refused a licence to practise medicine in Britain due to their poor English skills.

Health Minister Dan Poulter yesterday told MPs 128 doctors from the European Economic Area had failed to meet the necessary criteria since new regulations were brought in last April.

The General Medical Council extended checks on overseas doctors to include those applying to work in the UK, ensuring they provide evidence of their English skills or undertake a language assessment.

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Ukip leader Nigel Farage this week claimed there is a problem with foreign GPs not speaking good English despite all NHS doctors having to pass a language test.

In the most serious case, David Gray, 70, of Cambridgeshire, died after he was treated by German doctor Daniel Ubani in 2008. NHS officials in Leeds had refused to allow him to practise after he failed an English test but he reapplied again in Cornwall and was accepted.

Dr Poulter said Dr Ubani’s language skills were a “strong component in the incident”, prompting recommendations for the Government to change the law to allow the GMC to extend language tests.

He said the skills of medical professionals from overseas could benefit the NHS, although it was important for them to speak English to perform their duties properly.

Since the changes, 128 European area doctors had been refused a licence to practise medicine in the UK due to inadequate language skills, which he said “shows this is a measure that’s working to protect patients in the UK from doctors from within the European Union who can’t speak English effectively”.