Praise for EU Doctors: Why this open letter to the Daily Mail is so important

If you’ve been following the papers recently, you’ll know that a particularly controversial article by the Daily Mail was published towards the end of last month. In what was referred to as a “shock admission”, the Head of the General Medical Council (GMC) claimed that due to a loophole in EU law, British patients are at risk from thousands of EU doctors.

We at Hylton-Potts are passionate about helping competent medical professionals gain employment within the British healthcare system, so when we came across this story, along with the inspiring retort from one NHS surgeon, we felt it our duty to report it to you.

We handle dozens of emails a day from people wanting to join the NHS, but who are unsure of whether a move to the UK is currently a wise move for EU nationals. Today, we hope to show you that, while worrying stories in the media continue, the professionals that you would work alongside each and every day will welcome you with open arms.

What’s been in the press?

On 24th September, the Daily Mail published an article focusing on the latest claims by Niall Dickson, Head of the GMC. He said: “I’m not happy with the European doctor situation, and haven’t been for many years. Some European doctors – because we haven’t checked their competency – may struggle when they practice here, and that could put patients at risk.

“Medicine is very culturally specific. Doctors who come from other cultures can find it a significant challenge practicing in the UK. We are able to assess their language skills, but we cannot check their competency to practice. That’s just a reality.”

What Mr Dickson refers to is the section of EU law which states that the GMC is not allowed to test the medical skills of professionals entering the UK, as this would impede their right to freedom of movement. All UK bodies (as well as those of all member states) must simply assume that all doctors are equally as competent as one another.

Mr Dickson suggested that Brexit should provide the government with the opportunity to introduce checks by the GMC, “free from the shackles of EU law”. His argument is that, given the increasing reliance on EU staff to plug the gaps in the NHS, that this could put patients at risk as more positions are open to doctors who may not be as highly qualified as they appear on paper.

The NHS retort

Such strong statements about the NHS, at a time when they are already buckling under the pressure of understaffed hospitals and greater demand for services, was clearly not going to go unnoticed by those who are on the ‘frontlines’ of the UK healthcare system. One such surgeon hit back at the paper, praising his EU-national colleagues who have not only helped him to progress in his own career, as well as care for their patients.

Neil Tiwari, believed to be a medical professional practicing in the UK, posted a heart-felt open letter on Facebook, stating: “Enough is enough. My senior congenital cardiac thoracic surgeon colleague DOES NOT PUT PATIENTS AT RISK when he operates on babies. He gives them a chance to live. I don’t call him ‘a Romanian’, I call him Adrian.

“The doctor who showed me the intricacies and nuances of ECG heart rhythm traces when I first qualified, DID NOT PUT PATIENTS AT RISK when he treated them for their heart attacks. I didn’t call him ‘that Polish one’. I called him Pavel.

“You seek to foster division, engender distrust and cultivate fear of my friends and colleagues based on their nationality. You do this whilst willfully blinding others to the vital, invaluable service these people provide every damn day, up and down the country, and shielding the wealth of evidence regarding it from the public.

“I won’t allow that to happen. My colleagues and I will not allow that to happen, because these people matter to us and we won’t see them dragged through the mud.” After only four days on the social media site, Tiwari’s letter was shared over 23,000 times on Facebook, and gained much support from other members of the medical community.

An update on the facts

Although when such startling reports come to the fore it can be upsetting at first, it’s important to remember that EU nationals make up a huge number of NHS staff. All of those people have built lasting relationships with their colleagues, and there will always be individuals who stand beside them to fight for all the hard work and care they devote to their patients every day.

For those who are considering a move here, recent reports have confirmed that Article 50 will be activated no later than 31st March 2017, which means that Britain will leave the EU no later than 31st March 2019. So, it is now definite that over the next two and a half years, EU doctors, nurses and other medical professionals will still be able to move freely here for employment. Not only that, but there is every chance that the UK’s entry into the free market will be negotiated, meaning many could continue to take up positions here perhaps long after that.

Given how vocal the medical community has been on the subject, and how much the NHS is currently struggling to meet demand, it is highly likely that they will want to fight hard to keep the open door policy. Plus, for those already working in the NHS before the UK officially leaves the EU, the NHS would certainly fight to block any attempts by the UK Government, or elsewhere, from forcing those medical professionals to leave the UK.

According to the British Medical Association: “A drive to safeguard the rights of qualified doctors within the EU is a priority for the BMA’s European office, as the UK moves towards Brexit. This effort to maintain the free movement of doctors in the EU is one of the many measures being worked on.”

We receive dozens of emails on a daily basis from people who are concerned about their rights as an EU medical professional. If you would like some advice on this subject, then you’ll find no better experts than our legal consultants. The most important thing is to contact as soon as possible so we can assess your case, so don’t hesitate to get in touch. You can call us on 020 7381 8111, or email us at [email protected].

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