Saturday, 13 March 2010

For once the GMC is spot on

After several recent rather high profile deaths a lot of light has been cast on the topic of the way in which medical practitioners are regulated in the European Union. It is not something I thought I would ever say, but the GMC are talking some sense for once on this issue:

“Free movement of labour is fine but, in our view, patient safety trumps free movement of labour.”

It is hard to disagree with much that Niall Dickson says on this issue. It is just strange that it has taken the GMC so very long to say something about this, it has been a massive problem for many years, one can't blame Dickson for this as he has only been around for five minutes.

Essentially European law means that the GMC cannot test EU doctors competence or ability to speak English, despite the fact that many have a rather limited command of English and that some of their medical degrees are not the most rigorous of qualificiations.

Medical degrees in different countries are very variable. The US and Canada have a pretty robust training system in place, they invest a lot of money in making sure that their medical students are exposed to a lot of clinical work and clinical training. The UK's system is decent but less clinically based, the more clinical a training system the greater the cost. The EU is a completely mixed basket going from some excellent systems to some awful cheap ones in which there is very little clinical teaching at all.

The GMC is right on this issue. It is dangerous that the UK is forced to register any EU trained doctor without testing their English language skills or medical competence. This cannot be left to local PCTs, this should be done by the GMC and if the law prevents this, the law must be repealed or changed.

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