The General Medical Council is calling for better information sharing across European economic area countries to stop suspended medics from working in Britain.

The Alliance of UK Regulators, of which the GMC is a member, has called on the European Commission to propose a legal duty on regulators across the EU to exchange and act on registration and disciplinary information.

The alliance, comprised of 10 of the UK's regulators, said the action 'would make a real contribution to enhancing patient safety in the EU'.

At present, healthcare professionals from other EU countries need to have recognised medical training and a certificate of good standing to work in Britain, but there is no system in place to test competence or language skills. However, professionals from outside Europe who wish to work in Britain must take tests of their practical skills and proficiency in English.

GMC president Professor Sir Graeme Catto said: 'A minority of healthcare professionals may exploit free movement rights, putting patients at risk. Sharing information is key in preventing this which is why the GMC, as convenor of the alliance, is calling on the commission to impose a legal duty on all health regulators.

'Currently, there is no consistent traffic of information about healthcare professionals' disciplinary record. The GMC has routinely notified other regulators for 10 years. We issue a monthly circular to 34 countries which lets 65 regulators know of our decisions made about UK doctors' fitness to practise. We also send out follow-up letters to other regulators.

'The information we get back is quite poor. Some EEA regulators cannot exchange information on doctors because of rigid national interpretations of data protection legislation.

'This needs to change,' Sir Graeme added.

The alliance said that in 2005 more than 7,000 practitioners from the EEA came to the UK to register with the UK's regulatory bodies and find work.

The European Commission is looking into a new health services directive that would cover the mobility of health workers.