Hospital working to ensure foreign staff can speak good English

8:00pm Sunday 6th April 2014

By Lawrence Dunhill

STEPS are being taken in East Lancashire to ensure doctors and nurses don’t fall foul of proposed new powers which would see them disciplined or struck off if they are unable to communicate clearly in English.

The draft bill, published by the Law Commission, comes as dozens of health trusts have launched major recruitment drives for European nurses, including the authority which runs the Royal Blackburn and Burnley General hospitals.

East Lancashire Hospitals NHS Trust recently offered 38 jobs to nurses from Portugal and Italy in a bid to plug the remaining gaps in its work-force, which was prompted by a shortage of nurses within England.

Rules due to come into force this summer would mean doctors could be struck off the medical register if they have poor English.

But the Law Commission plans would go further and mean any healthcare professional found to be lacking a proficient grasp of English could be disciplined or banned from working in UK hospitals and GP surgeries.

It would be up to the government to decide whether to take the plans forward, however.

Dr Ian Stanley, interim executive medical director at ELHT, said there had been some concerns about how well the new foreign nurses would integrate.

But he added: “That was escalated to the chief nurse and extra support will be given to the new staff, so they feel they are able to cope.”

Meanwhile, David Smithson, head of human resources, has said the new recruits were fully assessed for ‘language proficiency’ before being offered the posts.

The overall aim is to prevent incidents such as the high-profile case of Dr Daniel Ubani, a German doctor with poor English skills who made a lethal mistake and administered a high dose of painkiller that killed a patient in Cambridgeshire.

A Department of Health spokesman said: "It is important for public and patient confidence that our professional regulation system is fit for the future.

"The government is committed to legislate on this important issue when parliamentary time allows. We welcome the Law Commission's report and will respond to their proposals in due course.”

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