HL Deb 06 March 1969 vol 300 cc272-4

3.8 p.m.


My Lords, I beg leave to ask the Question which stands in my name on the Order Paper.

[The Question was as follows:

To ask Her Majesty's Government what are the regulations governing doctors who have qualified overseas and who wish to practise in the United Kingdom.]


My Lords, doctors who qualify overseas may obtain registration as medical practitioners in this country in one of three ways. Section 18 of the Medical Act 1956 in general entitles a doctor who has qualified abroad to full registration in this country if he holds a qualification recognised by the General Medical Council and granted in a country in which British doctors are allowed to practise and has the required experience. If he lacks the experience necessary for full registration, he can be provisionally registered under Section 23 while he is obtaining it.

The General Medical Council may, if they see fit, grant temporary registration under Section 25 of the Act to any practitioner with a recognised overseas qualification. Temporary registration is limited to employment in an approved hospital. A Commonwealth or foreign graduate to whom none of these provisions applies must obtain a British qualification before he can be registered in this country, and for full registration must also have the required experience.


My Lords, I am grateful to my noble friend for that very full Answer. May I take this opportunity of congratulating her on what I believe is the first time she has answered for her present Department in this House? Would it be right to draw the conclusion from her Answer that the qualifications required of foreign doctors in this country are as well supervised by the appropriate authorities in this country as are those for doctors who qualify at home, and that there is therefore no need for any disquiet on the part of the general public as to the qualifications of such doctors?


Yes, my Lords, this matter is embodied in the legislation and is the responsibility of the General Medical Council.


My Lords, are we to understand from this Answer that there is no requirement for a foreign doctor to be reasonably conversant with the English language? Is it not extremely important that as well as having the necessary medical qualifications he or she should be able to speak the English language currently and be able to understand what is said to him or her by a patient?


My Lords, I am fully aware of the concern about the language and communication problem, but I understand that the General Medical Council see to it that at the schools they approve for full or provisional registration the medium of instruction is normally English. There is no language test as such for individual applicants, but of course this is a matter for the employing authority.


My Lords, is my noble friend aware how deeply grateful those of us in the hospital world are for the services rendered to the National Health Service by doctors from overseas?


My Lords, would my noble friend not agree that these services have been rendered under conditions that many English doctors are totally unwilling to accept, and would she not urge upon the Minister that no further restriction should be placed upon immigrant doctors until we have an adequate supply of doctors available in this country as an alternative?


My Lords, while not dissenting from the points that have just been made, I would draw the attention of the House to the fact that the original Question dealt with regulations for qualifications.