UK Will Require All Foreign Doctors To Know Their English
February 25, 2013

New UK Rules Require English-Language Proficiency For Foreign Doctors

redOrbit Staff & Wire Reports - Your Universe Online

Beginning in April, foreign doctors will be required to prove they can speak fluent English before they will be allowed to treat National Health Service (NHS) patients in the UK, government officials have announced.

According to BBC News Health and Science Reporter James Gallagher, the new regulations stem from an incident five years ago involving a German doctor named Daniel Ubani, who administered a fatal overdose to a patient during his first and only shift in the UK.

Ubani “had earlier been rejected for work because of poor English skills,” Gallagher said. He had previously sought employment at Leeds Primary Care Trust, who declined to hire him, but later found employment as an after-hours general practitioner (GP) at a medical facility in Cambridgeshire.

Ubani had “administered a 10-fold overdose” of the painkiller diamorphine to a 70-year-old patient named David Gray in February 2008, James Meikle of The Guardian explained.

That case “took more than a year to become public” and only did so when two of the victim´s sons “approached the Guardian following what they believed was lack of action by the authorities,” he added.

An investigation into the incident deemed that Ubani was “incompetent” and guilty of "gross negligence and manslaughter,” Guardian writers reported in 2010.

Starting in April, non-native doctors will need to be able to demonstrate they can speak and understand a “necessary level of English” before they will be allowed to treat patients in hospitals or other medical facilities, UK Department of Health officials told Gallagher on Saturday.

There will also be a national database of GPs to prevent doctors who had been denied employment for this reason from attempting to land a job elsewhere.

These moves, health minister Dr. Dan Poulter told BBC News, are intended to ensure patients are “able to understand and be understood by their doctor if we are to give them the best care they deserve.

“These new checks will ensure that all doctors who want to work in the NHS can speak proficient English and to prevent those who can't from treating patients,” he added.

Niall Dickson, chief executive of the UK´s General Medical Council (GMC), told Gallagher his group supported the stricter regulations and believed they would help keep patients safer in the long run.

“Our position is clear - patients must be confident that the doctor who treats them has the right communications skills to do the job,” Dickson said. “If doctors cannot speak English to a safe standard then the GMC must be able to protect patients by preventing them from practicing in the UK.

“We have been working hard for some time to close this loophole in UK legislation which has caused so much concern to patients and their families and we are delighted that the government has decided to act,” he added.