EU Laws putting NHS patients at risk
The heads of two royal colleges have warned that European laws that deal with how overseas doctors work in the UK are putting NHS patients at risk. In particular they have called for “urgent action” in relation to the language skills of EU doctors and the restriction on the number of hours a week trainees can work.
Professor Norman Williams, the president of the Royal College of Surgeons, and Sir Richard Thompson, the president of the Royal College of Physicians have sent a joint letter to the Daily Telegraph on these issues. In their letter they wrote:
“The language competency of doctors from the EU working in Britain, and the stifling effect of the European working time directive on the time that trainee doctors have to learn on the job, need urgent action.
“EU laws that apply to all sectors can have unintended consequences in healthcare that can put patients at risk, whether in Britain or other member states.”
The letter also called for the European Commission to set up an alert system to notify member states when a doctor has been struck off in an EU country.
Andrew Lansley, the health secretary pointed to the steps the government has already taken in relation to doctors practising in the UK with poor English skills. He said: “We agree that for too long patients have been let down by European rules which allowed doctors to operate in the UK without the necessary safeguards,”
“That’s why I announced last year new rules on checking doctors’ language skills and new powers to take action against doctors who can’t speak English properly.”