New Lords Inquiry into the Mobility of Healthcare Professionals

13 May 2011

The House of Lords European Union Sub-Committee on Social Policies and Consumer Protection today invited contributions to its new inquiry into the mobility of healthcare professionals

The European Commission is planning to revise the current Mutual Recognition of Professional Qualifications Directive, which is designed to boost professional mobility within the EU. However, in the last thirteen years, only 200,000 people have taken advantage of the legislation something that the European Commission are keen to address, as an political priority, contributing to the re-launching of the single market.

Under this legislation Member States are required to automatically recognise qualifications in seven professions where training requirement are harmonised, including doctors, nurses, dentists, midwives and pharmacists. The Committee are investigating how mobility can be encouraged whilst ensuring patient safety and how greater confidence can be injected into the system.

The issue of confidence has more relevance for British patients and healthcare workers in light of the Ubani case, where a German-registered doctor working as a locum in the UK administered a fatal overdose of diamorphine to a patient in February 2008 (The subsequent coroner’s inquest found that the doctor had been ‘grossly negligent’ and that the patient had been ‘unlawfully killed’).   

Committee Chairman, Baroness Young of Hornsey, said:

“At a time when wider reform to the workings of the NHS is being debated, we need to ensure that patients, and their healthcare colleagues, have full confidence in them to do their job.  We cannot let another Ubani case happen as a result of misunderstandings and language difficulties.

“This inquiry will ask questions about the way in which Member States work with each other to ensure fitness to practice for all professionals seeking work outside of their registered countries.  We will also be examining whether there needs to be a strengthening of language requirements for professionals who apply for work in a country whose language is not their native tongue.  We would encourage anyone who has an interest to contribute to this debate.”

The Committee will ask a range of questions including the following:

  • What are the benefits and risks for healthcare professionals and patients from increased mobility?
  • Do you feel sure that appropriate systems are in place to ensure vital information is passed between Member States about a professional’s competence, particularly their fitness to practice? 

Evidence collected during the inquiry will be used to inform our response to the European Commission’s Green Paper, due to be published in June 2011 and the subsequent legislative proposal, expected by the end of the year.

Image: iStockphoto

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