The European Parliament has voted to strengthen the regulation of nurses working across the EU, with plans to introduce language checks and more rigorous competency requirements.
The changes also include an EU-wide alert system to prevent clinicians who are barred from working in one member state moving to another. Countries will be informed of a conviction or decision to discipline a health professional within 48 hours.
Member states will also be able to test nurses and doctors on their knowledge of the official language in the country where they plan to apply for a job. Health professionals will also be obliged to improve their training and education where necessary.
Peter Carter, chief executive and general secretary of the Royal College of Nursing, said the measures would improve patient safety across the EU.
“We are encouraged by the recommendation to allow regulators to introduce language checks on EU health professionals. This will ensure that healthcare staff can communicate with their colleagues and patients,” he said. “Another positive is the alert system, which will prevent health professionals prohibited from practising in one member state from working in another.”
But he said the college was disappointed there was not more support for a minimum 12 years of general education before people could begin studying to be a nurse, which would have brought other parts of the EU in line with the UK.
He said: “We fully support the right for nurses to use their skills around the world, but patient safety must be the top priority. We hope the vote will be a good starting point to ensure all patients receive the same high quality care.”