Doctors, nurses, pharmacists who can’t speak English could be struck off, …

Doctors, nurses, pharmacists who can’t speak English could be struck off, regulators will be able to ban doctors, nurses and pharmacists from practicing if they fail English language tests.

By Steven Swinford, Senior Political Correspondent. 12:01AM BST 02 Apr 2014

See also Editor’s Note at end of article.

Doctors, nurses, pharmacists and social care workers who cannot speak proper English will be struck off by regulators.

Health regulators covering 1.4 million staff will be given the power to discipline or ban foreign workers who have a poor grasp of English. Under the EU freedom of movement requirements, tens of thousands of doctors, nurses and other health staff can come to Britain and work without any formal NHS training.

MPs and peers have warned that the system has compromised patient safety, with particular concern about the use of foreign doctors. In one notorious case, pensioner David Gray died after out-of-hours locum Dr Daniel Ubani gave him up to 20 times the recommended amount of diamorphine to treat pain in his kidneys. The German doctor had failed an English test for one primary care trust, so simply applied to work at another.

A new draft bill, published today by the Law Commission, will enable regulators to bar foreign workers from practicing and subject them to language tests. Those that fail will be barred from working in Britain. New powers would allow regulators to proactively investigate instances of suspected poor conduct and practice whenever they come to their attention. At the moment, some can only investigate once they have received a formal complaint.

The Bill also allows regulators to reconsider cases that have been closed following a mistake or error, as recommended by the inquiry into the scandal at Mid Staffs.

A process of revalidation – where professionals undergo “MOTs” to ensure they are still fit to practice – will be extended from doctors to all health and social care professionals. Schemes could also be introduced to bar unregulated workers from providing services, according to the UK-wide recommendations.

The nine organisations, including the General Dental Council, General Pharmaceutical Council and Health Professions Council, are responsible for around 1.4 million workers across 32 health and social care roles. A joint letter signed by the regulators calls on the Government to support the new plans and asks for “urgent parliamentary consideration” of the Bill.

It said:

“The Law Commission was tasked with creating a single, streamlined legal structure covering all nine regulators which would enable us to provide better protection for patients, be more responsive, reduce the burden of regulation and to drive down costs. “We were, and remain, committed to these aims. Realising them is essential if we are to retain the trust and confidence of the public, health care professionals and the health service in which those professionals work. … The recommendations of Robert Francis QC following events in Mid Staffordshire highlighted the vital importance of effective regulation focused on promoting safe, compassionate patient care rather than, as too often in the past, intervening only after patients have suffered harm.”

Some opinions on the day the article was printed (2 Apr 2014)              
2 hours ago 
I was examined by an ATOS Doctor whose spelling was bad every other word was incorrectly spelt and he used a keyboard with one finger. Absolutely useless. I suspect in the medical world as well.
3 hours ago 
Whilst I wholeheartedly agree with many of the sentiments expressed here, I do wonder why we as a nation are prepared to, in effect, rob poorer countries of their medically trained people. We shouldn’t be prepared to fill the huge gaps in the NHS with foreign born doctors and nurses. We should be training our own and encouraging other countries to keep their medics for their own people. However, I’m sure that the pay in the NHS would drag many people half way across the world to work. 
When I was teaching, I dealt with numerous bright, ambitious and determined teens who were desperate to be doctors or dentists, but who failed to gain a University place. Many went on to do related courses in the hope of transferring later but with no guarantee. They would have done really well, but the places simply aren’t available. And with the increasing feminisation of the profession, with many GPs wanting part time work, things are definitely not going to get better.
3 hours ago 
Who is going to sack the “managers” and HR clowns who employ these people based on little more than a CV which may or may not represent the truth ?
4 hours ago 
I daresay there will be more foreign doctors arriving here soon, ever more than before… British doctors will be taking their Lambo sized NHS pensions and scuttling off into the wide blue ether!
4 hours ago 
Whoever hired them in the 1st place wants firing too.
Why has it taken so long to acknowledge and address this problem ?
PC concerns again ?
sarahoo • 42 minutes ago 
No, it was actually the EU – and will quite likely continue to be the EU that sees this as giving English doctors an unfair advantage and try to stop it. The article was in the DT just over a year ago (will try to find it). It was about the EU’s anti-competition laws. No concern for our health of course!
milkie • 24 minutes ago 
milkie – This was an article about why the government were powerless to deal with doctors from the EU who didn’t speak English well enough to perform their duties. The regulations come from the EU but the blame lies solely on our government for implementing every single rule without question or logic – while other EU countries largely ignore many of them. However, the EU does appear to fine the UK more than any other EU country for non-compliance. You can draw your own conclusions on that one. I suggest they do it because our sad excuse for leaders are stupid enough to pay the fines.
Hayworth • 11 minutes ago 
ah, it is coming back to me now an article about a year ago in which it transpired the UK had not understood the UK rules about English language tests for EU doctors and had totally misinterpreted them. Unfortunately it would be too time consuming and too far back to search for the article as I don’t have any more specific details. but as you rightly point out the UK tend to follow the rules to the letter whereas other countries are able to interpret and adapt them to their needs. Maybe, although improbable, there is a language issue and they somehow get lost in translation, but more plausibly and less surprisingly in their interpretation! Maybe they need more assistance from the EU legal experts.
Phil Hall Hayworth • 19 minutes ago 
”Immigration and the National Health Service: putting history to the forefront” by Stephanie Snow and Emma Jones
Executive summary.
The Coalition Government’s plans to restrict immigration to the UK through capping non-EU immigrants and to introduce more stringent controls for highly skilled migrants are contradictory given the long history of recruitment of overseas health workers.
Since the 1930s, successive governments have recruited doctors, nurses and other health workers from overseas to work in UK health services with the first mass recruitment waves of nurses from the African Caribbean in the 1950s and doctors from the Indian subcontinent in the 1960s.
The need for health workers was significantly increased by the creation of the National Health Service (NHS) in 1948 and the expansion of specialists and technologies.
Immigration controls were tightened during the 1960s and 1970s but the increasing demand for overseas health workers continued.
Discrimination around training and career opportunities of first generation overseas health workers has had negative consequences for recruitment from the second generation.
The lack of any system of accurate data to monitor the migration, immigration, recruitment and retention of health workers has exacerbated the difficulties of manpower planning.
Shortfalls in certain fields of nursing and medicine continue and are predicted to intensify because of an international shortage of health workers.
Putting history to the forefront would help policymakers realize the significance of the NHS’s continuous dependence on overseas health workers and the need therefore both to improve equity and opportunity for such health workers and to integrate this fact of health manpower planning into national immigration policy.
4 hours ago 
This really is a no brainer!. How can a non English speaking member of our medical profession possibly do the job properly, get rid, job done!
arthermo • 4 hours ago 
Liberal idiotic attitudes in the UK make excuses for any incompetence unless the person happens to be white British born.
Antony Heath • 5 hours ago 
Thank God for a little common sense at last.
A while ago my elderly father was hospitalised and I was called to the hospital and told that my father had been diagnosed with dementia. The doctor told me that he had reached this conclusion as my father did not respond to anything he said. 
I asked my father about this and he said that he could not respond to the doctor as he couldn’t understand what he was saying. But being of the old school, he did not want to be so rude as to say that.
So I spent the next hour or so interpreting from pidgeon English to English my father could understand.
Antony Heath • 3 hours ago 
Sorry but I would have refused point blank to “interpret” .
By doing so you became part of the problem. 
When I worked in a German speaking environment I was expected to speak and understand German. “Pigeon” German would not have been acceptable.
Antony Heath • 4 hours ago 
Spot on & it is common place across the health service
5 hours ago 
The fact that they were employed in the first place says more about the competence and integrity of NHS management than that of the foreign Doctors, Nurses and Pharmacists.
The NHS needs “top to tail” reform starting with the management.
Pierrot2 • 2 hours ago 
£5 BN NHS fraud, Dentists blamed, Total Dental budget £3 BN, Admin. budget £35 BN. Anyone care to explain
5 hours ago 
Employ third world people you get a third world organisation.It’s all part of the Liblabcon effort of the past 60 years to destroy the UK and specifically England. That’s why they love the EU.
cedalion • 2 hours ago 
At a first world price
And so on and so on, …


Editor’s comment;
Whilst we agree with many of the opinions, many vociferous (and have added a few for you to get the general feeling), we do add that having spent our working lives, in the NHS or private hospitals, and recruiting (and managing!) doctors from abroad, that we absolutely do know that sometimes the really good doctors from abroad find it difficult (as well as the patients they treat), if they cannot express themselves in English and cannot communicate properly with patients.
A few years ago all clinical professionals from abroad had to take the International English Language Testing System (IELTS) exams and gain at least a 7 out of 9, before they could work in a UK hospital.
Sadly the UK’s adherence to EU laws, now allows any EU doctor or other healthcare professional, to work in the UK even if he/she cannot speak English. This is scandalous and clearly another accident waiting to happen (remember Dr Ubani). 
So what are the solutions?
1. Train more English doctors and nurses
2. Pay them more (funded by removing non-clinical hospital managers)
3. In the meantime, continue to employ clinical professionals from the EU and the rest of the world, but insist on GMC-led clinical checks and English and Clinical English tests for those whose first language is not English
ReMEDI Rx is a company coaching and testing clinical English and communications skills and even finding jobs for non UK doctors, and we expect that passing the IELTS test at 7 or higher will become mandatory again.
This article created a wave of heated discussion, part of which ReMEDI Rx has included in order to add a bit of spice to the article. Read on and let us know what you think.

Click on the link below to read the article in the Daily Telegraph – disqus_thread