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GPhC continues to push for power to test English skills

By News team

The General Pharmaceutical Council is calling on the Department of Health to consider putting forward proposals to give all health professions regulators the ability to test language skills in a consultation planned for later this year.

The DoH announced yesterday (25 February 2013) that it plans to consult on proposals to give the General Medical Council new powers from 2014 to prevent EU-qualified doctors from being granted a licence in the UK where concerns arise about their ability to speak English.

However, it indicated to PJ Online that other health professions would need to wait for changes in EU law before being granted similar powers.

Chief executive of the GPhC Duncan Rudkin told PJ Online: "All health professionals must be able to communicate effectively in English in order to keep patients safe. That is why we believe that all of the health professions regulators should be given the right to test language competence at the point of registration. We have previously called for changes to the relevant legislation to give us these powers."

He added that the GPhC would be happy to work with the DoH on the changes that would need to be made to the legislation governing pharmacy regulation.

A spokeswoman for the DoH said: "We are committed to ensuring all healthcare professionals coming to work in the UK can speak English well enough to communicate with patients.

"Changing the law at the EU level would mean that tougher checks could be applied to all healthcare professionals coming to work in the UK — including pharmacists. Negotiations on revision of the relevant EU directive are ongoing and we hope to have an agreement on the revised directive in the autumn [of 2013]."

The Directive currently prevents regulatory bodies from testing the English language competence of Europe-qualified healthcare professionals. But amendments to the Directive are being considered, which if taken forward could make access to health professions conditional on language competence.

The DoH confirmed that the revised directive is unlikely to be transposed into UK law until autumn 2015.

Pharmacy professionals who want to work in the UK and have qualified outside the EU are already subject to language tests.

Changes from 1 April 2013

The DoH also announced other measures to ensure doctors’ competence in English, which will apply from 1 April 2013. Responsible officers (usually the medical director in an NHS organisation) will have a legal duty to make sure doctors can speak the necessary level of English to perform their job in a safe and competent manner. In addition to this, a national performers list will replace performers lists held by primary care trusts, making it easier to carry out the necessary language checks.  

Citation: Electronicjuice DOI: 10.1211/PJ.2013.11117745

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