Health

Language checks for nurses proposed

  • 4 November 2014
  • From the section Health
A nurse

Nurses, pharmacists, dentists and midwives coming to Britain from the EU could face language skills checks to make sure they are fluent in English under plans being put out to consultation.

Currently, such tests apply only to overseas non-European applicants.

Language checks for doctors from Europe have already been introduced.

Health Minister Dan Poulter said the measures were aimed at protecting patient safety.

The risk of a healthcare professional not being fluent in English was highlighted by a lethal mistake made by Dr Daniel Ubani, a German doctor doing an out-of-hours shift who gave a lethal dose of a painkiller to patient David Gray in 2008.

At the time, as a German citizen, he was able to register to work in the UK without passing a language test.

The changes would mean the relevant regulatory bodies of each profession would be able to undertake language checks on all new applicants, as well as fitness-to-practise action if there were concerns about employees already working.

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.

"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."

The consultation will close on 15 December 2014.

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