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Patient safety must come first

22 February 2012

The General Medical Council has stressed that patient safety must always take priority over the freedom of movement of doctors in Europe. Responding to proposed changes to EU law governing the movement of doctors and other professionals around Europe, the GMC has stated whilst free movement is to be encouraged nevertheless there must be reassurance for patients that the doctors treating them are qualified and fit to practise.

For decades, patients in the UK have benefited from EU and overseas qualified doctors practising here and the GMC says many of the proposals in the updated draft directive are welcome. But it stressed that any changes must put patients first.

Niall Dickson, the Chief Executive of the GMC, said:

‘Patient safety is paramount. Although we support the freedom of movement of doctors, patient safety must always come first when making laws in Europe.

‘We welcome many of the proposed changes including the introduction of a duty on regulators to share information and the recognition of the importance of language skills for doctors to practise safely.

‘But there are some areas where we still need further clarity, including with the professional card where we are seeking further assurances on how it will work.’

‘We are now entering a critical stage in the process of confirming how the new rules will work in practise. During this time, we will continue to work with the UK Government, the EU institutions, and other regulators to do everything we can to make sure that the final directive provides the right safeguards for patients while allowing the UK to continue to benefit from the skills of doctors from across Europe.’

Other key elements in the updated draft directive are covered in the GMC’s position in response to the Commission proposal which is available on their website at