European Qualifications (Health and Social Care Professions) (Amendment etc.) (EU Exit) Regulations 2018 - Motion to Approve

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 1:15 pm on 7th March 2019.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Baroness Hayman Baroness Hayman Crossbench 1:15 pm, 7th March 2019

I also declare an interest as having been a member of the General Medical Council until that post was taken up by the noble Lord, Lord Hunt of Kings Heath.

Many of the points I wanted to make have already been made by the noble Baroness, Lady Jolly, and the noble Lord, Lord Hunt. I follow up his point about the ability to remove a qualification from automatic acceptance. When she introduced the SI, the Minister said that the Government would not issue guidelines. If there are no guidelines, one regulator may decide to remove an automatic qualification. The Minister said that it is in the best position to do so, but the SI lays down that there must be approval by the Privy Council. How is the Privy Council to make its decisions and against which criteria? There must either be criteria for the regulators to abide by and the Privy Council to supervise, or you give power completely to the regulator. I do not see how that process has any power or heft without guidelines.

The issue of review after two years has also been raised. There is concern that that review should be wide-ranging, because the process for recognising the qualifications of non-EEA and Swiss medical professionals is not satisfactory at the moment. It can be very long, drawn-out, bureaucratic and take a lot of money and time, as opposed to the streamlined system that we have had with EEA and Swiss nationals, which we are throwing away if we go for a no-deal Brexit. It is really important that that review is wide-ranging and does not leave us at the end with another cliff edge, which is that these health professionals on whom we depend so much become translated into international medical graduates and subject to an extremely unsatisfactory process.

In his wonderful speech the noble Lord, Lord Deben, referred to how the Government say that we will have wonderful flexibility but never quite explain what that is. Actually, the Government have flexibility on international medical graduates, because those procedures are not governed by the European Communities Act or by our membership of the EU. For many years, regulators have wanted to make progress on the issue but have not been given the legislative time or space and policy commitment from the Government so to do.

Alongside this work on EEA graduates, can we make sure that we look at the wider issue of doctors and other medical professionals coming here from outside the EEA? If the overall immigration trends are mirrored in the people coming to this country as medical professionals, we will see fewer EEA medical professionals but more IMG medical professionals coming here. I believe that we are seeing that already. Therefore, how we recognise their qualifications will be even more important.