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20th Dec 2016

Foreign Doctors Must Now Prove Competent English Before Registering With The Medical Council


A loophole that allows foreign doctors with subpar English to work in Irish hospitals is set to be closed.

The law currently allows medics with limited English to practise, as authorities are powerless to test their language skills due to strict EU regulations.

Recognition of Professional Qualifications Directive guidelines rule that doctors from the European Economic Area cannot be subject to any burden that is also not placed on Irish workers – i.e. English language testing.  

This means medics whose competency in the language has not been professionally assessed have been working on the front line in Ireland.

The Medical Council has admitted equality rules prevent it from directly examining doctors’ competency in the use of medical terms – or a medic’s ability to clearly communicate with English-speaking patients.

New legislation will be introduced before the end of this year to close the loophole, confirms The Department of Health.

This means foreign medical professionals will have to prove they are competent in English before they are allowed to register with the Medical Council and practise in Ireland.

According to the latest annual report from the Medical Council, the number of complaints against doctors increased by 19%, in comparison to last year’s 369 complaints.

Figures showed Ireland’s health system relies on a huge percentage of foreign-trained doctors in comparison to most other developed countries. For example, there were 20,473 doctors registered in Ireland last year – the highest number on record.

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