'In the last five years, 63% of doctors either struck off or suspended by the General Medical Council (GMC) were trained outside the UK.
Yet they make up only 36% of doctors on the medical register.'
Over a third of doctors in the UK are trained overseas, however, it is worth noting that this could be in English-speaking countries like Australia or New Zealand. Despite this, 63% of doctors struck off were overseas-trained.
The GMC introduces its new 'Induction Programme' which covers good practice topics and socialising overseas doctors into the NHS. There is no mention of checking language skills in the three part programme (an online assessment tool, a day-long workshop and an online resource)
There is mention of a review of the Performance and Linguistic Assessments Board (PLAB) test for overseas doctors. During the PLAB communication skills are tested using an OSCE-like observation method. Communication skills are assessed by an examiner during a 5 minute simulated patient exchange. The following types of communication strategies are assessed (from the website):
- Explaining diagnosis, investigation and management
- Involving the patient in the decision-making
- Communicating with relatives
- Communicating with health care professionals
- Breaking bad news (although not expected to be assessed during a 5 minute exchange)
- Seeking informed consent/clarification for an invasive procedure or obtaining consent for a post-mortem
- Dealing with anxious patients or relatives
- Giving instructions on discharge from hospital
- Giving advice on lifestyle, health promotion or risk factors
So far so good. So, if all overseas-trained doctors are expected to prove their language competency through the PLAB, why are there continuing issues which directly relate to poor English language skills?
Probably because ALL overseas-trained doctors do not have to take the test. From the website again<
'You will need to pass the PLAB test before you can apply for registration with a licence to practise if you meet the following criteria:
- You are a national of a country outside the UK, European Economic Area (EEA) or Switzerland who graduated from a medical school outside the UK'
Where are we now in the assessment of doctors who were trained within the EU or EEA or Switzerland? We are no further yet anecdotally at least, poor English language skills are causing significant problems. There is movement in the EMP (English for Medical Purposes) area - more and more medical English on-line courses are appearing (I am involved in at least two) and more English language colleges are offering medical English courses.