A House of Lords committee has claimed that EU rules are putting patients at an unacceptable level of risk, a situation that could see more medical negligence cases being filed against the NHS.
Free movement of labour is at the very heart of the problem, the committee explained. Regulatory bodies should be allowed to test the English language ability of every dentist, doctor, midwife, nurse and pharmacist who wants to work in the UK. Furthermore, disciplinary information must be shared between countries when medical staff choose to work abroad.
Allowing doctors to work anywhere in the EEA has become a controversial issue in this country recently. One high profile case that involved medical negligence solicitors surrounded the German locum, Daniel Ubani. He administered a fatal overdose of painkiller to a 70-year-old man whilst working on his one and only shift in a British hospital.
Ubani had been rejected by a hospital in Leeds because he had poor English skills and yet he was hired by another trust. And despite receiving a suspended sentence in his country of birth, he is still working there.
Baroness Young, the chair of the committee, said our patients are being failed by the EU and it is totally unacceptable that they are put at risk by EU regulations. Whilst we accept that mobility can be beneficial, this should not be at the expense of patient care.
The chief executive of the GMC, Niall Dickson, said patient safety should always come first and urgent changes need to be made to EU rules.
Andrew Lansley, the health secretary, recently said it was completely unacceptable to have doctors working in the NHS if they aren’t able to speak English properly.
The NHS has been under fire for paying out huge sums in medical negligence compensation. Testing the language skills of incoming medics may go some way towards rectifying this problem.