Patients to benefit from new european rules

Published on Tuesday, 09 July 2013 13:38
Written by Scott Buckler

The NHS Confederation's European Office says patients will benefit from updated rules on the movement of health professionals around Europe, after the European Parliament voted today on the revised directive on recognition of professional qualifications

The updated directive means doctors, nurses and other health professionals moving from one European country to another will have to meet new patient safety requirements. It will also require Member States to establish an 'alert system' to warn each other if a clinician has been convicted of a crime or is under disciplinary sanctions.

Today's vote in the European Parliament at committee stage confirms the informal agreement on the revised directive reached by EU decision-makers recently. It will be followed by a vote of the full European Parliament in the autumn.

The revised directive covers:

Language checks - the directive will allow regulatory bodies to check health professionals' language competence and test it where necessary, before allowing them to practise. This means doctors and nurses would have to prove they can speak English if they want to practise in the UK.

Proactive warning system – health regulators across Europe will have to proactively warn each other within three days when a health professional is banned or has restrictions imposed on their practice. This is a major improvement from the existing requirement which obliges regulatory bodies only to respond to requests for information from their European counterparts.This will prevent rogue clinicians from "shopping around" Europe and travelling to another country to treat patients.

Training – health professionals will only get professional registration if they meet all the minimum training requirements for their profession. European member states will be required to actively support continuing professional development for clinicians. Additionally, doctors' training will remain at five years, which is the current standard for Britain's well-established, high quality medical training.

The revised directive takes account of concerns raised by the NHS European Office relating to the European Commission's original proposals on updating the Directive on the Mutual Recognition of Professional Qualifications. Some of the proposals originally put forward for the directive had threatened to weaken safeguards aimed at preventing incompetent or dangerous health professionals from practising.

Elisabetta Zanon, director of the NHS European Office, said:

"The NHS needs to ensure the right checks and balances are in place to protect patients from dangerous care by health professionals. We have worked hard to ensure that patients are safeguarded, and are pleased that the revised directive has taken account of many of the concerns we raised.

"We need health professionals to be able to move around Europe freely and use their expertise in other countries, but patient safety must be our first priority. NHS organisations must be confident that European staff who come to work in the UK have been properly checked and that their qualifications, experience and other credentials are up to date and meet minimum standards."

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