On Monday (18 January 2016) new rules enter into force governing the free movement of professionals (including health professionals) around the European Union (EU). It is a success for the NHS in Europe that will help the service maintain its workforce and keep patients safe.
Existing EU law provides for holders of certain qualifications, such as medical and nursing qualifications, to have their qualifications recognised in EU countries other than the one in which they trained. This means they can practise across the EU with the minimum of barriers and delay.
Key changes for the NHS in the updated rules are:
- Speeded up online procedures for registering general care nurses, physiotherapists and pharmacists
- Introduction of an EU-wide warning system to guard against rogue professionals entering the UK from other EU countries and vice-versa
- Stronger language controls so that regulators can check incomers' language skills
- Updated minimum training requirements for doctors, general care nurses, dentists, midwives and pharmacists
- A requirement for all EU countries to encourage continuing professional development and report on progress
- The possibility of more EU-qualified practitioners providing "temporary and occasional " services, requiring more vigilant checks by employers
- Longer term, the possibility of changes to the content and standard of training curricula for healthcare professions.
Elisabetta Zanon, Director of the NHS Confederation's European Office, said:
"More than any other country in the EU (with the tiny exception of Luxembourg) the UK relies on doctors, nurses and other health professionals trained elsewhere. We couldn't run the NHS without them. So we welcome moves to cut red tape and encourage people to relocate.
"It's vitally important that patients are protected from unsafe practitioners as people's lives are in their hands. That's why the NHS European Office fought hard for this legislation to include a warning system. It means that, in future, regulatory bodies across the EU will have to alert each other within three calendar days about any registrant who has been banned from practising, even temporarily, to prevent them 'job shopping' around Europe.
"Our successful lobbying has also resulted in stronger English language checks for healthcare practitioners seeking registration in the UK. We're delighted that these innovations will make patients in the UK and elsewhere safer.
"We will keep influencing future developments, especially where we think they may not be beneficial. Our job is to stay ahead of the game so that the NHS benefits from the contribution of well qualified incomers without jeopardising high quality care."