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Nurses from Europe 'must prove English language skills'

Published 19/01/2016

The Nursing and Midwifery Council will have the right to check the competency of European nurses under new rules
The Nursing and Midwifery Council will have the right to check the competency of European nurses under new rules

Nurses and midwives from Europe will need to prove they have enough English to practise in the UK under new rules coming into force.

From Tuesday, the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) will have the right to check the competency of European nurses, though it is not imposing a blanket language test on European-trained applicants.

If nurses and midwives are unable to provide sufficient evidence of language skills - such as having trained or worked in an English-speaking country - they will need to undertake an English language assessment.

Such rules are already in force for nurses and midwives from outside the EU.

NMC chief executive, Jackie Smith, said: "From now on, all nurses and midwives applying to join the register from outside the UK, including the EU, will have to demonstrate they can communicate effectively to a high standard of English.

"The ability to communicate effectively with patients is fundamental to patient safety and a principle that is central to our code.

"We can now investigate patient safety concerns in relation to a nurse or midwife's ability to communicate effectively in English.

"Along with the new EU alerts mechanism, which will make it easier to share any fitness to practise information with other EU Member States, this will greatly improve patient safety."

In December, a study found that patients treated by nurses educated abroad are less likely to feel confident in the care they receive and report less satisfaction.

Experts behind the research - the first evidence of its kind - said recruiting more nurses from overseas instead of from the UK may "negatively impact quality of care".

For every 10% increase in the number of non-UK education nurses, there was a 12% decrease in the likelihood of patients across England rating their hospital good or excellent, the study found.

There was also a 13% drop in the odds of patients agreeing that they always had confidence and trust in nurses.

Patients were less likely to say they got answers to their questions that were easy to understand, or to have the purpose of their medications explained.

In October, r estrictions on recruiting nurses from overseas were temporarily lifted to aid recruitment.

Nurses were added to the Government's Shortage Occupation List, which means nurses from outside the European Economic Area (EEA) now have their applications prioritised.

The Department of Health said the move was designed to ease pressure on the NHS at a time when the Government has introduced a cap on NHS trusts hiring expensive agency staff.

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