Foreign doctors were 13 times more likely to be investigated for poor practice
A study found medics who qualified in Bangladesh in particular were a staggering 13 times more likely to be investigated for poor practice.
Researchers concluded that a lack of a grasp of the language means some foreign-born doctors are unable to communicate fluently with patients in English, which in turn negatively impacts their medical ability.
The study’s authors, from University College London, also found Egyptian and Nigerian-born GPs faced an eight-fold higher risk.
In fact, overall, doctors from every country apart from South Africa were more likely to face an incompetence investigation than their British counterparts.
Factors around staff induction, training and prior assessment before entering the UK are clearly an area we need to address
Jane Dacre – President of the Royal College of Physicians
In addition to the language barrier, the study found poor training in countries with lower standards.
Cultural barriers could also be to blame, the study found.
With one in three GPs practicing in the UK now from a foreign country, mostly from elsewhere in Europe, study author Dr Henry Potts warned that they could say ‘with confidence’ that foreign doctors are more likely to be investigated.
Researchers concluded some foreign-born doctors are unable to communicate fluently with patients
He explained: “I would say to patients that the vast majority of all doctors wherever they trained are highly skilled and competent.
“If a poor doctor makes a mistake it could have life-changing consequences for patients. So we do need to make sure that’s not happening and that all doctors are competent.”
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He added: “There is a possibility about the sort of training people are getting in different countries… “Another angle is where are these people going wrong? Is it raw medical competence? Or is it language? Or is it about understanding the culture?”
But Jane Dacre, president of the Royal College of Physicians, warned that the NHS must not be ‘complacent’ about foreign doctors.
She said: “Factors around staff induction, training and prior assessment before entering the UK are clearly an area we need to address.”
The team of researchers analysed nearly 20 years worth of official data from the General Medical Council.
They looked into those GPs whose performances warranted a competency assessment, according to Chris Smyth’s in-depth report. Almost 6,000 foreign doctors were hired in the UK last year, despite the ongoing concerns of language barriers. But last year, foreign-trained medics made up 72 per cent of those who were struck off.
To train as a doctor in the UK, students need to pass a medical degree that takes five years.
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This is followed by a two-year foundation course, and then three years’ GP training, or five to eight years in other speciality areas.
All doctors from outside the EU who want to work in Britain must sit an English language and a clinical skills test to show they have the skills needed to work in the NHS.
The Royal College of Surgeons has previously called for the Government to use Brexit to introduce safety and language checks for doctors, dentists and nurses from the EU.
There has been a growing number of cases of incompetence involving foreign doctors employed in the UK in recent years.
It was just 18 months ago that a Polish heart doctor became the first European locum to face restrictions on the UK medical register after failing an English language test three times.
He had moved to Britain from Krakow in Poland in 2006 and has worked in several hospitals as a locum – but it was not until last year that he was ordered to sit an exam amid concerns of his English.
Researchers analysed nearly 20 years worth of official data from the General Medical Council
Other cases include a Nigerian doctor struck off for killing a pensioner with a painkiller overdose and a Pakistani trained medic struck off after being found to be running an unregistered mobile circumcision service.
The revelations of foreign doctor incompetence come after it was also revealed British medical students are missing out on places due to foreign medics being brought in to fill roles in the UK.
Reliant on foreign-born medics, the NHS has actively targeted them to help plug a staffing shortage that has left us in crisis.
But this may largely be because hundreds of straight-A British students are being denied the chance to train as doctors.
Top-performing teenagers are being shunned by leading universities while the NHS continues its drive to recruit thousands of foreign doctors.