Call to change vetting of overseas doctors

THE ways overseas doctors work shifts in the NHS are vetted must be "changed immediately", MPs said today.

In a damning report, the Health Select Committee called for rapid improvements to the way English language competency is checked among GPs who travel to the UK for work.

An inquest in February criticised the current out-of-hours arrangements following the death of patient David Gray in Cambridgeshire in 2008.

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He was killed by German doctor Daniel Ubani who administered 10 times the normal dose of diamorphine.

Dr Ubani admitted being exhausted after getting only a couple of hours sleep before starting his shift in the UK, and said he was confused about the difference between drugs used here and in Germany.

Dr Ubani's poor English meant he was refused work by the NHS in West Yorkshire but was later accepted for work in Cornwall.

Giving evidence last month, the General Medical Council's (GMC) chief executive, Niall Dickson, said there was a "gaping hole" in the registration system for doctors coming from the European Economic Area (EEA).

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Even though it regulates doctors, the GMC is prevented by law from checking the language skills of medics or fully assessing their competency.

The committee heard the GMC and the Government differed over whether the law could be amended without facing sanctions from Europe.

Committee chair and Rother Valley MP Kevin Barron said: "It is tragic that it takes the death of a patient to expose the serious failings now evident in the current system for checking language and competence skills of overseas doctors.

"Everything possible must be done as soon as possible to ensure another life is not lost in this way."

Today's report said: "If the GMC had been able to check the language skills and clinical competence of EEA doctors wishing to practise as GPs, lives might have been saved."

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