Foreign doctors face language tests under new rules

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NEW rules making language tests mandatory for EU-qualified doctors have been announced following a campaign by the sons of a Manea man killed by a German doctor.

David Gray died in February 2008 after accidentally being given a massive overdose of the painkiller diamorphine by Dr Daniel Ubani, who was working his first shift in the UK for an out of hours doctors’ service.

An inquest on Mr Gray highlighted issues with EU doctors being allowed to work in this country without undertaking language tests before hand.

Mr Gray’s sons Stuart and Rory have led a campaign to get changes to the rules governing the employment of foreign doctors in the light of their father’s death.

At the end of a lengthy inquest last year coroner William Morris found Mr Gray was unlawfully killed and his death amounted to gross negligence manslaughter.

And under special coroner’s rules Mr Morris called for massive changes in the way out of hours services were provided and the way overseas doctors are allowed to work in this country. He particularly highlighted the issue of language and called for checks to ensure all doctors had a sufficient knowledge of English to be able to work in this country.

Fenland MP Stephen Barclay has been working behind the scenes together with neighbouring MP Norman Lamb to get a change in the regulations since last May.

He said: “Norman and I met with the Solicitor General, Edward Garnier MP, in January this year, the Chief Executive of the General Medical Council, Niall Dickson in February, the Secretary of State for Health, Andrew Lansley MP, in March, having earlier tabled a host of Parliamentary Questions.

“We have since written to the Department on a number of occasions including three times during the Summer Recess. This was to ensure that officials did not hide behind European legislation as has been the case for the past three and a half years since the unlawful killing of Mr Gray.

“I am delighted, therefore, that my fellow Cambridgeshire MP, Andrew Lansley, who has been very aware of this issue over recent months, has today announced new legislation to ensure that EU-qualified doctors must demonstrate that they can speak English and undertake mandatory language tests.”

Mr Barclay continued: “Norman and I were told originally by health officials that this was not possible because EU law prohibited it. We pointed out at the time that the same EU laws did not prevent French doctors from being subjected to language tests where doubts over language competence existed.

“Today’s announcement vindicates that position. It shows that the position of officials can be changed and EU law is perhaps too often used as an excuse for inertia.”

He hoped the announcement would provide some comfort for Mr Gray’s family, particularly his sons who he said had conducted their campaign with ‘great energy and dignity’.

Mr Barclay said there is still work to do, particularly in terms of the enforcement of disciplinary action across Europe in respect of EU-qualified doctors.

“It remains the case that Dr Ubani is able to continue practising today in Germany, even though he was found guilty of unlawful killing in the UK. However, today’s announcement will, I hope, reduce the likelihood of such tragedies happening in the first place,” he added.