A prominent health campaign group has expressed its concern at the poor English skills of immigrant nurses working for the National Health Service (NHS), saying that they put patients at greater risk of mistakes being made.
The Patients’ Association, who campaign to improve patients’ experience of healthcare in the UK, said that the current situation, with foreign nurses hastily brought in without having their language skills properly tested, is “getting out of hand”.
Chief executive Katherine Murphy called on the government to look into the situation as a matter of urgency. She told the Daily Mail: “We are concerned poor English skills may lead to mistakes. We urge the Government to urgently review this situation.”
The comments come as new figures reveal that the number of foreign nurses registering to practice in Britain has soared. In 2013/14, 5,217 Europeans registered with the Nursing and Midwifery Council, roughly equivalent to 100 per week. That represents a rise of 52 percent on the previous year, and more than double the 1,970 who registered in 2009/10.
Although some say that the nurses are necessary to cope with staff shortages on the NHS, there are concerns that many do not have a good enough grasp of the English to practice safely.
Andrew Percy, a Conservative MP who sits on the Commons Health Select Committee, told the Daily Mail: “We should only be looking to foreign nurses if we can actually prove they can hit the language standards that patients expect.”
Yesterday, Prime Minister David Cameron admitted that the government had not brought down immigration by as much as he would have hoped. The Sun reports that he admitted that annual immigration figures would still be well above 100,000 by the time of the next General Election, despite a promise to reduce them to the “tens of thousands”.