- How will responsible officers (ROs) make decisions on language competency?
- Do responsible officers have the autonomy to accept other language tests?
- How will responsible officers evaluate the level and relevance of English language qualifications awarded in other EU countries?
- What will happen with doctors already practising in this country if there is concern regarding their level of English – how are ROs expected to respond to this or even judge if there is a concern?
- When is an organisation a ‘Designated Body’?
- Where can I find further guidance as to whether my organisation is a designated body?
- How do I declare my organisation as a ‘Designated Body’?
This will be up to individual ROs to determine. In essence, the RO will need to be assured that suitable checks are taking place during the recruitment / contracting process to ensure that English language communication skills are appropriately assessed (in accordance with the responsible officer regulations).
These responsibilities are augmented by the GMC’s ability to check the language skills of doctors as part of the licensing process. The GMC currently checks the language skills of doctors who qualified outside of the European Economic Area when they apply for GMC registration, and refuse to grant registration if the doctor cannot communicate in English to a safe level.
From Summer 2014, subject to Parliamentary approval, the GMC will be able to check the English language skills of EEA doctors when concerns about their language capability arise during the registration process. Those who are unable to provide evidence of the necessary knowledge of English may be refused a licence to practise in the UK.
The GMC accepts a range of evidence from International Medical Graduates (IMGs). Further information can be found on the GMC website.
Further to the GMC English language requirements, employers should be prepared to accept a range of evidence and tests. For example, the applicant may be a fluent English speaker because they have lived, worked and/or studied in an English-speaking environment. Employers must not systematically test all EEA applicants. For example, making all applicants sit the same test, even though they may be able to demonstrate their competence in other ways, is not permitted.
Decisions by the employer about what evidence it requires to be satisfied about the applicant’s English language knowledge must be made on a case by case basis and be proportionate, depending on the work the individual is going to undertake.
This will be an issue that may come to light through various means including the annual appraisal process where evidence covering the whole scope of a doctor’s work is reviewed e.g. feedback from patients and colleagues; complaint letters or involvement in serious untoward incidents which could indicate a communication issue.
Concerns should be identified and any shortfalls rectified in accordance with the policy and procedures for managing concerns about primary care practitioner performance. Where a doctor’s language competency / communication skills either fail to improve through training or are considered to be a barrier to their fitness to practise, this should be addressed through normal GMC fitness to practise channels.
Some organisations are automatically designated, these are listed in the Schedule Part 1 of the responsible officer regulations. Other organisations, the types are listed in the Schedule Part 25, are designated bodies when they have a prescribed connection with at least one doctor usually through employment or one of a variety of contract arrangements.
Organisations that believe they may be a designated body (DB) should read the RO regulations and associated Department of Health guidance for further information. Contact should also be made with regional revalidation teams to discuss in further detail.
If the DB status remains unknown, legal advice should be requested to identify the applicable clause in the regulations which deems them to be designated.
Once the status as a DB has been confirmed, the board of the DB should formally appoint their RO and inform the applicable higher level RO.
Contact should be made directly with your regional revalidation team within NHS England – contacts for revalidation leads can be found here. Regional teams can assist in informing the GMC and ensuring your organisation and responsible officer have access to appropriate support and guidance via relevant networks.