An urgent change in the law is needed to ensure overseas doctors can be checked for competency in English, a medical regulator said today.

The government must act immediately so GPs from the European Union can be thoroughly tested, the General Medical Council said.

The GMC has said it is forced to accept skills competency certificates and qualifications at face value

GMC chief executive Niall Dickson has written to health trusts pointing to the “gaping hole” in the registration system for doctors coming from the European Economic Area.

It comes after a report last month criticised the current arrangements following the death of David Gray in Cambridgeshire in 2008.

He died after German doctor Daniel Ubani administered 10 times the normal dose of diamorphine.

Mr Dickson told MPs investigating the issue that the current arrangements across Europe for checking doctors were unsatisfactory.

The GMC has said it is forced to accept skills competency certificates and qualifications “at face value” and is not allowed by European law to check English language skills.

Mr Dickson told the House of Commons health committee the GMC needed more powers to check doctors coming from the European Economic Area.

“For them we are not allowed to language test and we are not allowed to competency test.”

Health minister Mike O’Brien told the committee he wanted action taken now.

He said: “If we go into a long drawn-out discussion about changing EU directives, what the GMC want and giving them new powers - for all the right reasons they want it, I don’t make any criticism, on the contrary I think what they are doing is laudable - I think it will just take longer.

“But I want this sorted out by the end of this year, I don’t want to wait any longer.”