Tougher checks are to be made on the skills of East European doctors and nurses who want to work in Britain after a U-turn by European Commission officials in Brussels.

Tougher checks are to be made on the skills of East European doctors and nurses who want to work in Britain after a U-turn by European Commission officials in Brussels.

The Independent on Sunday revealed last week that Britain's medical regulators had warned that thousands of medical staff from the new EU members would seek jobs in Britain without enough evidence of their professional abilities.

Their complaints were taken up on Tuesday by the Health minister, John Hutton. He challenged the commission's decision to break an earlier promise to check whether skills and training standards in the 10 new member states met current EU standards.

But, after claiming it had no plans to carry out any checks, the commission said late on Friday that it would order an urgent review before the 10 countries, including Poland, Slovakia and Lithuania, join the EU in a week's time.

A commission spokesman said: "We're striving to provide comprehensive guidance on their diplomas before 1 May, but we need to get all that information from the countries themselves. The sooner this can be done, the better."

The row was alarming ministers. Facing a national referendum on the new EU constitution, the Government is anxious to prove that enlargement will bring real benefits to the UK.

These would include hiring nurses, doctors and dentists to fill the thousands of vacancies in the NHS. But British regulators, including the General Medical Council, the Nursing and Midwifery Council and the General Dental Council, warned that this could be made extremely difficult because they had no way of knowing if East European medical staff were properly qualified.

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