1,000 docs let in without language test

  • Niall Hunter, Editor

Over 1,000 EU doctors have been given registration by the Medical Council to work in Ireland over the past five years without having to prove they have good English or a proper standard of clinical competence, it has emerged.

A total of 1,105 doctors from other EU countries have applied for registration in Ireland since 2006, but due to a loophole in EU freedom of movement law, the Medical Council is not allowed test their proficiency in English or their clinical competence.

It is understood that the bulk of EU applicants are granted registration to work here as doctors.

According to figures provided by the Council to irishhealth.com, a total of 1,105 doctors from other EU countries have applied to the Council for full registration from the beginning of 2006 to this month, in addition to a further 142 applications for visiting EEA (European Economic Area) temporary registration.

A total of 314 EU doctors applied for registration in 2006, and this year to date there have been 88 EU doctor registration applications.

The Council has called for legal changes to be made to tighten up the checking of EU doctors before they are allowed practise here.

At present, the Council can only seek a certificate of good standing from EU doctors seeking registration; this  tells the Council that the doctor concerned had not come to the attention of the regulatory authorities in their home country for professional misconduct, but it would not be a guide to competence or language skills.

On the other hand, if a non-EU doctor wishes to be registered to work in Ireland, he or she can be tested by the Council for both their clincial skills and their English language skills.

The Council says while it has a robust system to check the skills of non-EU doctors seeking registration to work in Ireland, it is up to hospitals employing EU doctors to check their language and clinical skills before they hire them.

According to the Council, under the relevant EU law, persons benefiting from the recognition of professional qualifications shall have a knowledge of languages necessary for practising the profession in the host EU Member State.

However, the law also states that the consideration of the linguistic competence of an applicant can only be considered by the competent authority after it has considered the recognition of qualifications under the regulations, and registration with a competent authority may not be the subject of a prior language test.
The Medical Council says it requests all employers to satisfy themselves that all medical practitioners employed by them have sufficient English language skills to perform their duties and communicate with patients and colleagues.
The Council says it also strongly recommends that all applicants for whom English is not their first language should attempt the IELTS (International English Language Testing System) to ensure that they have sufficient language skills to practise medicine in Ireland. 

They are also advised that they may be required by employers or agencies to meet certain English language requirements.
Doctors are requested to sign a declaration affirming that s/he has the necessary English language skills, the Council said.  

In addition, it says its ethics guide requires that doctors have appropriate language skills.

It was reported in the Irish Times today that a doctor working in Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital in Drogheda had such a poor command of English that he was unable to work on-call.


kickstar - 05/10/2010 18:24

Considering that a 1000 doctors have been let in without Language checks don't you think it might be a bit like the horse has bolted already,also do we not carry out checks on these doctors after they have settled in ? if not why not ?. And why does a small country like Ireland need to import 1000 doctors, Don't we train any of our own ?, or shouldn't we train more ?.

CATHY - 16/10/2010 11:55

Talk about double standards!! Medical Council should be responsible for all doctors working in Ireland { EU or non EU} as they are ultimately responsible for patient care. It is not the hospital that should be responsible for English testing.

The Medical Council, the interviewing Consultants should wake, and not employ doctors just to fill places and keep hospitals open. Patient care is at stake. The situation will get worse in the next intake of doctors in Jan 2011. 

God help the patients

Nickname: to be used for all future posts.
Notification: Tick this box if you wish to receive e-mail notifications of further posts on this topic