Making patients safer

Doctor banging his head realizing a mistakeTwo years ago I spoke to the BBC Record Europe about the need to ensure that doctors and other health professionals are proficient in English before being allowed to practice in the UK.

This followed the tragic case of David Gray who was killed by a painkiller overdose prescribed by a German doctor, Dr Ubani, who had previously been refused work due to his poor English skills.

I told the BBC that this case and a small number of similar incidents highlighted the need to make European rules stronger to prevent these tragic mistakes happening again, and that Labour would campaign to bring this about.

Last week in Strasbourg we saw the culmination of this campaign, when Parliament voted for new rules on a Europe-wide alert mechanism, meaning doctors struck off elsewhere in the EU won’t be able to practise in Britain, and ensuring language skills can always be tested.

As a result of the new rules, all member states will have to alert the authorities about professionals no longer entitled to practice their profession.

We were joined by many other MEPs from across Europe.  Shamefully, however, UKIP MEPS voted against the moves which will make British patients safer.

And it won’t just be doctors who are covered; healthcare professionals such as nurses, dentists, vets, midwives and pharmacists are also included.

The new rules will make it easier for many professionals who want to use their qualifications to live and work abroad, whilst making sure that those who have lost their qualifications cannot cover it up in another European country.

Of course, there are many highly skilled healthcare professionals from within the EU who provide a valuable service to Britain’s NHS.   However, communication with patients is key to the work of any healthcare professional and we need to make sure we are only employing people who can work safely and effectively in our health service.

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