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Lords Committee says EU rules put patients at "unacceptable risk"

The rules that allow healthcare professionals to practise throughout the EU pose an unacceptable risk to the safety of patients, according to a report by a House of Lords committee which was published today. The committee's key finding was that the Mutual Recognition of Professional Qualifications Directive, which governs the mobility of healthcare professionals within the EU and is currently under review, strikes the wrong balance between allowing  healthcare professionals to work in other EU countries and ensuring the safety of patients.

The committee went on to recommend that regulatory bodies should be allowed to test the language skills of all non-UK applicants, and that an alert mechanism should be implemented so that authorities can share fitness to practice information and warn each other about practitioners who have been subject to disciplinary proceedings.

Calling for changes to the Directive, committee chair Baroness Young of Hornsey said: "It is absolutely unacceptable that current EU rules put patients in the UK and elsewhere at risk. From regulating bodies being forced to accredit candidates who may not meet UK standards to the fact that there is no way for prospective employers to check an applicant's disciplinary history thoroughly, the EU is failing our patients.

“We recognise that mobility within the EU can bring significant benefits, but we have to make sure that this is not at the expense of patients’ health, care and confidence. Employing doctors, nurses, midwives, pharmacists and dentists from outside the UK can help to provide patients with the best possible treatment but may also expose them to unacceptable risks.
“The changes to the Directive that we would like to see would, we hope, help to rebuild confidence in a flawed system by putting in a place a rules which still promote mobility but recognise the overriding importance of patient safety."

[quote top=Responding to the news, health secretary Andrew Lansley was quoted by the BBC as saying] We are able to apply language tests to European doctors for employment purposes on the NHS. It's completely unacceptable for doctors to work in the NHS if they can't speak English properly.[/quote]