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”
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.
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:
- Czech Republic
- Republic of Ireland
- The Netherlands