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Minister proposes tighter language checks for European NHS staff

  • 7 Comments

Tighter requirements for overseas nurses, midwives, dentists and pharmacists working in the NHS to speak English to a good standard could be introduced, under government plans being put out to consultation.

Health minister Dan Poulter announced the consultation on proposed language controls for applicants to jobs in the nursing, dental and pharmacy professions from the European Economic Area (EEA).

“Ministers are firmly committed to preventing healthcare professionals who do not have sufficient knowledge of English from working in the UK”

Dan Poulter

Under the plans, regulators will also be able to undertake language checks on new applicants and take fitness to practise action where there are concerns about the English language skills of professionals already working.

The changes would give the new language control powers to the General Dental Council, the Nursing and Midwifery Council, the General Pharmaceutical Council and the Pharmaceutical Society of Northern Ireland.

The law currently allows language checks on overseas non-European applicants and on doctors from the EEA. The new proposals would extend checks to the remainder of staff from European countries not covered by the current law.

Dan Poulter

Dan Poulter

In a written ministerial statement, Dr Poulter said: “We greatly value the contributions that healthcare professionals from all over the world have contributed, and continue to contribute, to our NHS but it is essential that they have a sufficient knowledge of the English language in order to provide safe patient care.

“Earlier this year, changes were introduced to strengthen the law around language controls for doctors by introducing language controls for European Economic Area doctors wishing to practise in the UK,” he said.

“Ministers from the four UK health departments are firmly committed to improving public protection by preventing healthcare professionals who do not have sufficient knowledge of English from working in the UK,” he added.

 

Countries are in the European Economic Area:

  • Austria
  • Belgium
  • Bulgaria
  • Cyprus
  • Czech Republic
  • Denmark
  • Estonia
  • Finland
  • France
  • Germany
  • Greece
  • Hungary
  • Iceland
  • Republic of Ireland
  • Italy
  • Latvia
  • Liechtenstein
  • Lithuania
  • Luxembourg
  • Malta
  • The Netherlands
  • Norway
  • Poland
  • Portugal
  • Romania
  • Slovakia
  • Slovenia
  • Spain
  • Swede
  • UK

 

  • 7 Comments

Readers' comments (7)

  • Having worked in operating theatres for 20 years its not just staff from within the EU that need their language skills checking.
    The Central London hospital where I work recently had a recruitment drive and on the first week of the new staff working in theatres they clearly could not speak English,or maybe they could speak English but chose to speak in their own language .

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  • I agree on tighter controls. I took a patient to another ward and had to hand over. No RN seemed to be available for ages, until I saw one and asked the untrained nurse on that ward if that RN could take handover. 'It's no good handing over to him he doesn't understand English he won't understand you' What!! I was flabbergasted. In no way is this safe. I struggle to understand half the people from other countries that I work with; and the patients, bless them, especially if they are a bit deaf have an even greater problem. One nursing auxillary even argued with me on how to pronounce Graham and other words, and they keep trying to 'correct' my English when I've been speaking it for over 50 years have a degree, A levels and working on my second degree, and am totally British. I am greatly concerned.

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  • HCSW

    Make it even more difficult to become an RGN. I would suggest a PhD in nursing as a minimum safe level of education for a prospective nurse.

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  • HCSW | 10-Feb-2015 5:59 am

    nursing is very boring to those of us with higher degrees!

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  • HCSW

    @ Anonymous | 10-Feb-2015 8:19 am

    Read your own comment once again, maybe you will realise how stupidly offensive it is.




    PS. I have a BSc in History. Did it 15 years ago in my home country. :-P

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  • HCSW | 15-Feb-2015 10:18 am

    @ Anonymous | 10-Feb-2015 8:19 am

    it was intentional in response to your equally ridiculous commentary!

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  • a German colleague doing a brief stint in a British hospital, trying to impress his consultant on a ward round, informed him that one of his cases was one of 'goat' (gout)!

    In a French speaking hospital I requested a porter to come and fetch the knickers from the fridge. In French question is a 'culot' pack of red blood cells and being an Anglo-Saxon and novice of the French language I had pronounced the 't' at the end of the word thus 'culottes'. little faux-pas that make the world go round and my colleagues were amazed how I manage to summon a porter to the ward so fast!

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