Wednesday, 22 March 2023

Unregulated doctors in the UK

Britain is not fully joined with the EU.  There is still debate, even within parties, whether they should join fully, pull out or just remain the same.  It seems that the pressure is either to go full-speed ahead or pull back.  No one seems to like the status quo position.  But, why not?  At least, then Britain might be able to decide what it wants from the EU and what it doesn’t.  Or, will that change in the future?

One of the reasons I believe Britain should not fully join in with the EU is because of the health system.  Only last week, the Times had reported on the botched surgeries performed on patients in this country by some Scandinavian surgeons.  In the article, it was reported that the GMC has had to double the number of disciplinary action against EU doctors.  Of course, I cannot speak for the non-EU doctors as the problems addressed involved only EU doctors.  This is because doctors in the EU are given full access to every country within the EU, regardless of their training, competence and English skills.  This, despite the fact that training in the different countries can vary tremendously.  The article cited the fact that in Italy, a doctor could qualify with very little patient contact. 

Contrast this with the treatment that non-EU doctors get.  In order to be registered with the GMC, the non-EU doctor must prove that he/she can speak English adequately, even if said doctor is a native English-speaker.  This proof can come in the form of the IELTS or references who can attest to their English skills.  They also need to either pass the PLAB (a two-step medical competence exam) or provide evidence in other ways of their competence, such as post-graduate certification exams.  In addition, they must state their fitness to practice.  Any blight on their record would practically ruin their chances of being registered. 

EU doctors can skip all these steps and get right on the register.  Even those doctors who have been disciplined in their own countries.  This is because information on disciplinary action is not required – it is voluntary, and the GMC is not allowed to check on this because of EU rules.  Is this fair?  Is this what Britain wants?

Because of new immigration rules, non-EU doctors are barred from entering the country and getting a job unless no one else is available to fill the position.  But EU doctors have free rein.  There may be disgust and frustration that non-EU doctors, who were initially recruited during a shortage of British doctors, had taken over all the jobs when the supply of British-trained doctors increased; but now there is competition from the EU and no guarantees that those doctors are appropriately trained.

I cannot even compare this to the US.  At least there, the quality of training programmes are regulated by the same authority. The EU does not have such a system in place.  Medical boards in the different states of the US share information on their doctors, so that it is practically impossible for a doctor to move without his past following him.  And, unless they can prove that they were equivalently trained as a US doctor, any foreign doctor may have to undergo further training in the US before they can practice. 

Shouldn’t the GMC be allowed to question the competence of every doctor within the UK borders?  Apparently, not if Britain is part of the EU.

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