Medics coming to Britain from the European Union will be expected to prove their proficiency in English from June under changes proposed by the General Medical Council (GMC).

Foreign doctors from outside the EU are already assessed by the GMC, but under the new regulations European doctors will also have to provide evidence of their English skills or undergo a language test.

All overseas doctors will also need to achieve a higher score of 7.5 out of nine on the language skills tests, rather than the current 7 out of nine.

Niall Dickson, Chief Executive of the GMC, said:

Doctors who want to practise in the UK must be able to communicate effectively in English to ensure the safety of their patients.

These new measures to ensure doctors from other European countries can communicate in English, combined with the higher test score requirements, will help us strengthen protection for patients. They will also bring about a greater degree of fairness between our requirements for European doctors and for those from outside Europe.

These are important steps to tighten up our procedures. But, while we welcome the Government’s support for our determination to achieve reform in this area, there is more to do. This is part of a package of measures that will further increase our scope to make sure that doctors coming to the UK from the European Union are able to communicate safely. Employers, including locum agencies, must also play their part, and ensure that all doctors for whom they are responsible can communicate and practise safely.

New regulations allowing the changes are on their way through parliament.

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