Responsible officers could test language skills of EU doctorsBMJ 2012; 344 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.e2923 (Published 23 April 2012) Cite this as: BMJ 2012;344:e2923
All rapid responses
So instead of an independent objective rigorous evaluation of language skills we will make do with a subjective guess by someone appointed and employed by a prospective employer of the applicant (the PCT).
Anybodies guess I suppose how many responsible officers have a stake in other employing organisations like out of hours contractors or practices but this conflict of interest is acknowledged, though not addressed, in the DH document (para 2.11).
Moreover instead of having a portable language assessment applicants that do not know the mates of the RO could be subjected to repeated assessments.
Would it not be preferable to introduce universal, independent and objective knowledge tests for all 'practitioners' that see patients without referral or delegation? Then a minimum standard could be required for all GPs, NPs, ambulance techs that do the initial clinical assessment and this wrangling would not be needed.
Competing interests: No competing interests
There has long been a need to redress the balance between the requirements for non-EEA and EEA doctors in terms of English language and communication competencies. Whilst I welcome this development my feeling is that this remains the responsibility of employers to ensure that they are fit and able to work in the UK.
Using 'responsible officers' might be seen as the best solution given the dramatic changes to the NHS but is it the most effective and efficient solution? Testing communication skills and language competencies does not need to be the responsibility of senior doctors but could be assessed by HR, HCAs, Nurses etc. Should language competency not form part the recruitment process in the first place?
Non-EEA doctors have to jump through several hoops (IELTS, PLAB) to ensure their English language skills are up to a certain level and that they have the required clinical knowledge. We know that this is not always enough and that communication skills remain a crucial component to maintain patient quality. In times gone by trusts have run communication skills courses for all non-UK employees and I would recommend that employers draw on evidence of best practice for non-EEA doctors before reinventing the wheel.
Competing interests: I have worked closely with local trusts, educational bodies, NHS Employers and refugee and international medical graduates (non-EEA) to returning to practice in the UK. I have been an advocate on English and communication testing and support for all doctors regardless of country of origin. I am writing in a personal capacity and not on behalf of University College London.