In a letter to Lewisham Hospital NHS Trust hospital’s workforce of 2,200, chief executive Claire Perry called on staff to only speak English.
The letter said that patients were complaining of being upset by not being able to understand the different languages spoken on wards.
Half of the trust’s workforce are from a minority ethnic background but hospital managers could not say how many staff speak more than one language.
‘If staff are unable to work with acceptable English it brings into doubt their ability to comply with the requirements of the role,’ said Ms Perry in the letter.
‘Speaking another language may be considered rude and inconsiderate to others. This also applies If you are on your break and are in any public place or if you are within possible earshot of patients, visitors and service users,’ she added.
Wendy Irwin, RCN diversity and equalities coordinator, said: ‘It’s a really difficult and sensitive situation. It will be interesting to see how the trust will monitor this and how it will impact on patient care, particularly if you have a patient whose first language is not English.’