Test language skills to prevent medical negligence claims

The UK’s General Medical Council is calling for new powers that will let them test both the clinical competence and the language skills of European doctors who want to practice in this country.

The call comes after a pensioner, David Gray, died following an instance of medical negligence in Cambridgeshire. Dr Daniel Ubani was working his first shift covering out of hours periods when he administered a fatal dose of morphine to the pensioner. Ubani admitted manslaughter and gross medical negligence in Germany and has since been struck off the UK’s medical register.

Doctor’s regulators in another 25 European countries, including Germany and France, have agreed with the GMC that a change in the system is required. Under the current European Union directives, doctors cannot be forced to undergo additional tests on their clinical or language skills. The onus has been on individual employers to check competency and the checking has been patchy.

Meanwhile, the insurance industry is concerned that a recent ruling in the Guernsey Court of Appeal could have repercussions on personal injury awards. The decision in the case of Helmot v Simon has re-ignited calls for reform in the way awards are assessed in the UK courts.

In the Guernsey case, road traffic accident victim was awarded personal injury compensation of £13.7 million; the largest award to be made by a court in the British Isles. It’s not the amount of the award that is causing unease amongst insurers, but the way the amount was calculated.

Victims who have submitted personal injury claims are entitled to claim damages to re-instate their financial circumstances to the same state as they would have been in had the accident not occurred. The award must take into consideration future care costs along with the development of any continuous clinical condition caused by the accident. Both of these are assessments are of course uncertainties. The Guernsey Court decided it was not bound by rate of return set out by the Damages Act and could therefore fix its own rate of return appropriate to the island’s economic conditions. This, in effect, increased the compensation payout by 39%.

Insurers are now concerned that this case could from a precedent for courts in England to follow a similar procedure, which would lead to larger payouts and increased insurance premiums.

If you have any questions relating to personal injury claims, you would be well advised to get in touch with a personal injury solicitor.

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