Ireland: Eastern bloc doctors escape English language test

Harold Schiffman haroldfs at
Tue May 29 21:05:56 UTC 2007

Eastern bloc doctors escape English language test

The Medical Council has abandoned proposals to introduce an English
test for Eastern European doctors. Under European legislation, the
Council said it cannot make English language knowledge a criterion for
registration of EU nationals, and said the onus is on employers to
ensure staff have adequate English skills to perform their duties. It
said this had been communicated to the HSE by Council President Dr
John Hillery.

Non-EU doctors have to sit an English test, but since EU accession,
doctors from 10 countries no longer have to, even though many doctors
from these countries had failed this English test under the old
system, the Council said. Prof Anthony Cunningham, Chairman of the
Council's Education and Training Committee, said that there would have
been "a reasonable level of proficiency".

"From what we understand, you can't have it as a prerequisite for
registration and they must be registered, and you can't set any
universal test. But the employers must ensure that whoever they are
employing has appropriate language skills," he told IMN. "We
understand there are concerns and it relates to former Eastern
European states primarily. You can see where there would be concerns
if individuals didn't have appropriate communications skills to
understand instructions and decisions," Prof Cunningham said.

The Council said English language knowledge, in the context of the
implementation of Directive 2005/36/EC on the Recognition of
Professional Qualifications, was discussed at a recent meeting of its
Education and Training Committee. It said the Directive deals with
language knowledge and it states: "Persons benefiting from the
recognition of professional qualifications shall have a knowledge of
languages necessary for practising the profession in the host Member

The Council said the European Court of Justice determined that the
principle of proportionality needed to be taken into account, with the
linguistic knowledge required being appropriate to the work to be
carried out.


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