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Tighter Language Requirements Needed For Medical Staff

Consultation On Medical Staff's Grasp Of English Launched


Health minister Dr Dan Poulter is calling for tighter requirements to be introduced with regard to the standard of English medical staff from overseas should meet in an attempt to prevent misunderstandings and therefore improve patient safety.

Dr Poulter has published a written statement detailing his thoughts on the matter, in which he outlines his belief that all doctors, nurses, dentists, midwives and pharmacists from abroad should only be allowed to work in the UK if they can communicate in English to a certain standard.

In a bid to regulate this, he has announced a consultation on introducing language checks to all candidates from within the European Economic Area (EEA) when they are applying for medical roles in Britain.

Currently, such assessments are only carried out in relation to applicants from outside of Europe, as well as doctors from within the EEA. However, under Dr Poulter's proposals, the General Pharmaceutical Council, Nursing and Midwifery Council, General Dental Council and the Pharmaceutical Society of Northern Ireland will all be given new language control powers to check job candidates' English ability.

The regulators will also be able to take action to prevent those with a poor grasp of English from being employed in the UK medical industry.

Dr Poulter wrote in his statement: "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."

He added that "ministers from the four UK health departments are firmly committed" to preventing doctors and nurses who cannot demonstrate a certain standard of English from working in the UK.

The government is asking for comments and opinions on these proposals to be expressed by all interested parties throughout the consultation period, which will end on Monday December 15th 2014.

Expert Opinion
Patient care should always be a top priority for NHS Trusts and staff, which means providing patients with all of the information they require about their treatments in a way they understand. All too often we have seen cases where patient safety has been put at risk due language barriers causing a breakdown in communication and lack of understanding between patients and medical staff.

“It is vital the suggestions made by the health minister are investigated fully and measures are implemented to ensure all medical professionals operating in the UK are able to communicate clearly with colleagues and patients, in a bid to reduce the number of mistakes being made and, in turn, improve the care provided to patients.”
Julie Lewis, Partner

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