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GPhC calls for urgent implementation of EU language testing plans

Professional Any delay in implementing the rules could “expose patients to continuing risk of harm”, says the GPhC in response to GMC consultation on new EU rules

The government must "urgently" implement plans to test continental European pharmacists on their English language skills or risk continuing to expose patients to harm, pharmacists and the General Pharmaceutical Council (GPhC) have warned.

An amendment to EU law, passed by the European parliament in October, will allow regulators to test the language skills of all healthcare professionals including pharmacists before they register in the UK from 2015, the GPhC said last week (November 26).

Any delay in implementing the rules could "expose patients to continuing risk of harm", the regulator warned, in its response to a General Medical Council (GMC) consultation on how the new rules could be applied to doctors.

An amendment in October to EU law will allow regulators to test the language skills of all healthcare professionals, including pharmacists, before they register in the UK from 2015

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"We look forward to working with Department of Health (DH) colleagues on how the new language provisions can be implemented," said GPhC registration and international policy manager Martha Pawluczyk.

Currently, EU pharmacists can automatically register in any country in the union and language tests can only be conducted by a pharmacists' employer. This can pose a threat to patient safety because of the variation in how different companies test their employees, Pharmacy Voice said in its own response to the consultation last week (November 29).

Pharmacy Voice called on the DH to "work urgently" with the GPhC and other stakeholders to find a way to apply the rules in the UK.

"We wish to see these provisions transposed into national legislation at the earliest opportunity. Such testing must be proportionate to the skills required for a pharmacist to practise," Pharmacy Voice said.

Aniruddh Patel, owner of Savages Pharmacy in Burnham-on-Crouch, Essex, said English tests should be mandatory for European pharmacists.

"They have to be at a high standard because they're not ordering a Big Mac, it's really serious things. If you misinterpret the information, you could kill somebody," he told C+D.

The DH had commissioned a review of the regulation of language skills and would work with the GPhC to implement any changes "as soon as possible", it told C+D today (December 5).

In 2012, a House of Commons health select committee recommended the government allow the GMC to test the language skills of doctors coming from the EU. In February this year, the GPhC called for similar tests to be carried out on pharmacists.

Do you think the proposals for language testing are necessary?

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Miracure Pharmacist, Work for a health/commissioning consultancy company

I wonder what Mr Nelson Mandela would think of this ........... RIP

C W, Dispensing assistant

The GPhC are a bit of a mixed bunch, aren't they? On one hand they're clearly trying to improve patient safety by calling for pharmacists with the requisite language ability to communicate effectively and thus improve patient safety.

On the other hand, they're happy to have boxes of co-codamol and pseudoephedrine pretty much anywhere in the supermarket.

It's as if they give with one hand and take with the other!

A P, Community pharmacist

Maybe we need another regulatory body to protect the public from the GPhC...

Underrated Professional, Locum pharmacist

I had a Spanish pharmacist who could not read the GPhC registration form and asked for my assistance. Hey presto got her registration, but was uncomfortable to practise. However, some pharmacy owners are willing to hire on the cheap and have dispensary/counter staff do the talking. Our home-trained students have to pass a stringent
pre-reg exam to compete for jobs that go to the cheapest not the fittest. How sad!!

Nick Hunter, Community pharmacist

It's not just the language skills that need testing. Despite having accreditation certificates I frequently hear reports that new EU pharmacists do not know how to deliver services be they advanced or enhanced services. My day job then involves me spending precious time defending the profession from attack by medics

Kevin Western, Community pharmacist

Even at macdonalds they dont trust customers to self serve - possibly the most important phrase EU pharmacists will need to know in future is "give me that back"

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