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Trust denies sending overseas nurses on local dialect course

Royal Wolverhampton Hospitals Trust has been forced to deny that it is sending foreign nurses on a course to learn the Black Country dialect.

It recently recruited more than 40 overseas nurses from Europe, as part of a major investment in nursing staff for its New Cross Hospital.

“We’re not trying to create a lot of Black Country-speaking overseas nurses”

Cheryl Etches

While they are fluent in English, the new nurses from Greece, Spain, Italy and Portugal are to take a six-week course at the University of Wolverhampton, which involves language skills.

However, the trust has rubbished claims the course will feature training in the strong local dialect, after a series national newspaper articles suggested nurses would learn common phrases like “make us a brew” and “I’m starved”.

Chief nurse Cheryl Etches told Nursing Times the stories were not true and had been based on a jokey comment that had been taken out of context.

“We’re not trying to create a lot of Black Country-speaking overseas nurses,” she stressed. “If a nurse from London came to work here, then we wouldn’t send them to university to learn how people in the Black Country speak.”

Cheryl Etches

Cheryl Etches

Instead, the weekly sessions would help familiarise the nurses with UK healthcare terms and language, such as the name of drugs and equipment, she said. It will also include excursions to show the nurses Wolverhampton and surrounding areas.

Over the next two months, 45 new Band 5 staff nurses will be arriving from abroad as part of a £3.6m workforce investment, which was agreed after a staffing review revealed gaps.

Ms Etches said the course was part of efforts to help them settle in and encourage them to stay working for the trust. She said the training would also contribute to patient safety by reducing the risk of confusion on the wards.

“We thought it was really important to be able to offer every opportunity to help these new nurses settle in to our healthcare system and our culture,” she said. “These are highly trained and qualified staff and we don’t want to lose them.”

The course is on top of a full induction programme that will include support with accommodation and other pastoral care.

Taking on overseas nurses would not stop it seeking to recruit locally and from across the UK, said Ms Etches.

As part of the recruitment drive, the trust is also expecting to employ more than 40 graduate nurses from the University of Wolverhampton in September.

Ms Etches added that some of the cash would also be spent on a rolling programme of measures that would also include exploring new ways to retain existing staff. 

It follows a study in which nurses arriving from Europe to take up jobs in the NHS admitted they may not have the “right” language skills to work effectively. Researchers said common problems were “things like words for different types of pain or colloquialisms”.

Readers' comments (3)

  • Regional dialects seem to be disappearing - but 100 years ago, parts of the Black Country dialect could be unintelligible even to someone who only lived 20 miles away !

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  • sounded a highly improbable tale. where on earth did it come from?

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  • Kings Lynn Hospital give overseas nurses some training in local words and phrases, it's been on TV a while ago.

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