Dr Clare Gerada, the chair of the Royal College of GPs, has warned that family doctors routinely see up to 60 patients in a single day due to a "chronic shortfall" of GPs and funding:
Our figures should send out a warning to Government and the rest of the NHS that we will soon have a catastrophe on our hands if urgent action is not taken to reverse the decline in funding for general practice and provide GPs with an appropriate amount to spend on each patient every year ...
GPs are keen to do more for their patients but we are heaving under the pressure of ever increasing workloads and diminishing resources, including a chronic shortfall of GPs.
Some of us are routinely working 11-hour days with up to 60 patient contacts in a single day and this is not safe or sustainable, for patients or GPs. We simply cannot do more without the funding and resources to back it up.
Health minister Dan Poulter said while overseas doctors make a "hugely valuable contribution to the NHS" it is "clear" that "tougher checks" on English language skills are needed. He added:
We have already strengthened the way doctors' language skills are checked at a local level. These new powers are an important step in making the system even stronger by allowing the GMC to carry out checks on a national level before they start work in the UK and prevent doctors who do not have the necessary knowledge of English from treating patients.
Niall Dickson, chief executive of the General Medical Council, said:
This is an important move that will help protect patients and will be welcomed across the country.
The move to enpower the General Medical Council's English language testing comes after a series of high-profile cases, including Dr Daniel Ubani, who killed a patient in 2008 after confusing the names of two drugs.
The new powers for the GMC could see inspectors:
checking for language competency when looking at qualifications
judging how long doctors have been registered in other countries
examining the type of experience the doctors possess
assessing any doctor if language concerns arise during a fitness-to-practise investigation
Red flags may include doctors turning up with interpreters, poor English in interviews or poor written English on application forms. Any worries could then prompt full testing of the doctor's language skills.
A potential shortfall of 16,000 family doctors in England in eight years time due to a funding gap is "truly shocking", according to the chairwoman of the Royal College of General Practitioners (RCGP).
The fact that, in just eight years, we could see a shortfall of almost 16,000 GPs is truly shocking.
General practice is at the heart of the NHS and if it is left to wither, as is the case now, it could sow the seeds of an unprecedented disintegration of the NHS, both in primary care and secondary care.
Such is the key role that general practice plays that if it starts to fall apart the impact will be felt across the rest of the health service - leading to longer waits in A&E and ever more last-minute cancellations of elective surgery.
– Dr Clare Gerada, chairwoman of the RCGP
A poll of around 250 GPs conducted for the RCGP last month also found that 85% believe general practice is "in crisis", while half said that GPs could "no longer guarantee safe care to their patients".
A funding gap between 2013 and 2021 could lead to a shortfall of 16,000 family doctors in England, the Royal College of General Practitioners (RCGP) has said.
On Thursday NHS England reported that there would be a £30 billion gap over the next eight years if health services in England continue to deliver care in the way they do.
The RCGP has calculated that general practice will face a deficit of £2.7 billion in 2021, which based on the typical costs of employing partner and salaried GPs would lead to a further shortfall of 7,500 GPs across England.
It stated that there is already a shortfall of more than 8,300 family doctors.