MPs call for urgent changes to overseas doctors vetting system

08 April 2010

Changes must be made immediately to improve the vetting system for overseas doctors providing out-of-hours GP care in the UK, concludes the Health Committee in a report published today

A failure to check language skills and clinical competence of European Economic Area nationals (EEA) doctors led to the killing of patient Mr David Gray by Dr Daniel Ubani, a German locum, in 2008. Following a coroner's verdict of 'unlawful killing' in February this year, the Committee undertook a short inquiry.

It concludes that if the General Medical Council (GMC) had been able to carry out language and competence checks on EEA doctors wishing to practise as GPs, lives might have been saved.

As a matter of extreme urgency, the Government should press for change to the relevant EU Directive to enable the GMC to test the clinical competence of doctors and to undertake systematic testing of language skills.

In the meantime, it is essential that the existing system of vetting EEA doctors is immediately made to work more effectively. Strategic Health Authorities and the Care Quality Commission must ensure that Primary Care Trusts (PCTs) are undertaking the proper checks.

A vastly improved system for regulating how PCTs monitor standards is required to ensure constant vigilance.

PCTs have a legal obligation to carry out proper language checks. However, the Committee notes that no action has been taken against Cornwall and Isles of Scilly PCT which admitted Dr Ubani to its medical Performers List (which a GP must be on in order to practise in the NHS) without carrying out the requisite checks.

The Department of Health must implement the recommendations of the 2009 Performers List review without delay and must also consider the merits of a national database for GPs.

Kevin Barron MP, Committee Chair, said:

"It is tragic that it takes the death of a patient to expose the serious failings now evident in the current system for checking language and competence skills of overseas doctors."

"Everything possible must be done as soon as possible to ensure another life is not lost in this way."

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