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Trust denies Spanish nursing recruits' skills are lacking


An Essex hospital trust has been criticised by one of its own staff for recruiting Spanish nurses, barely two months after it was criticised over patient safety concerns in a major review.

A nurse at Colchester Hospital University Foundation Trust has claimed that most of the Spanish nurses recruited to fill a staffing shortage there “have poor English and can’t read the drugs chart”.

The trust has refuted the claims, which were made anonymously in a local newspaper.

It was one of 14 trusts with higher than expected mortality rates that were investigated earlier this year by NHS England medical director Sir Bruce Keogh.

Sir Bruce’s team noted in their report that the trust was recruiting more nurses but warned that staff felt they were not always listened to and there was a lack of response to patient safety concerns.

The nurse was quoted as saying most of the nurses recruited from Spain, of which around 70 are currently being integrated, “have poor English and can’t read the drugs charts and can’t give out the drugs”.

“We have to have extra staff nurses in to help them,” she told the Colchester Daily Gazette. “They are not allowed to work alone – they are like students.”

A spokesman for the trust said the Spanish recruits needed “time to acclimatise to our systems and protocols”, and as a result had been allocated a senior nurse as a “buddy”.

“Even though these recruits are all senior nurses, they are treated as newly-qualified nurses and supervised at all times until they can be signed off as having achieved all the necessary competencies,” he said.

The spokesman added that the recruits had to pass both an English test and a drugs calculation test before being considered for employment – stating that the nurses from Spain “performed extremely strongly” on drugs calculation.

He called on the nurse who had spoken to the paper “to raise their concerns with their ward sister or matron” or use the trust’s confidential “raising concerns” helpline.

“We would have thought that the nurse will be pleased for patients that the trust has taken on additional nurses, regardless of where they come from,” he added.

  • Nursing Times is currently running the Speak Out Safely campaign to improve the protection and support received by nurses and other staff who raise patient safety concerns.

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Readers' comments (8)

  • Looking at the advert on this same page I assume that they were the only nurses willing to work for such pay scales!!!

    £23.00 - £35.00 per annum + BENEFITS

    One can only assume the benefits are free board and lodgings or else they will die in the gutter...

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  • foreign nurses should demonstrate competency in English an equivalent level of training. Senior or experienced nurses should receive an induction course and be offered a trial period with support from a peer and more senior manager to learn about ward organisation, procedures, local policy and practices, etc. but if they have registered their qualification and English proficiency with the NMC (which should be a requirement if it is not already) they should not be expected any more than their English peers to demonstrate every procedure they undertake unless it is something they did not cover in their training.
    Spanish nurses, like most from western European countries, are highly trained, trained, qualified and very competent.

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  • Sounds like a disgruntled employee bitching about 'those foreigners coming over here and taking our jobs'.

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  • I have worked with some excellent Spanish and Portuguese nurses, all highly qualified, highly competent, hard working and very good with the patients. and I would have every confidence in them if I was being looked after by them.

    there was a story of one (before my time) who announced she was going to give a patient an injection of Bitamin V12 but this was more a pronunciation problem than one of poor language skills. It simply caused amusement all round with no harm done. It was also a good lesson to her successors to hone their language skills as this and other pronunciation errors were never repeated by any of them.

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  • Give them a break for goodness sake, they should have some time to get used to our system, we would expect the same if we worked in their countries
    At the end of the day we do not have enough suitably qualified staff to meet our needs as employers so we will have to think outside of the box! We should welcome them and coach them and learn from them to our teams to improve patient care

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  • if the UK don't have enough suitably qualified staff it must be geographical as there are many highly qualified unable to get a suitable job and go abroad where employment and living conditions are, in many countries, of a higher standard.

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  • A perfect command of English is not essential to look after patients, but if they passed legitimate competency tests, than it is just a matter of getting used to the local accent. Should all UK nurses be banned from working in the Middle East as most of them probably don't speak Arabic, Farsi or Pashtun?

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  • I think the nurses who come to our country to work should be supported with language classes then be admired.
    I can't think of many British born nurses that I know who would be able to go to Spain or Portugal to nurse as our education is not very good in teaching languages.

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