The NHS is hiring nurses from abroad, even if they don’t speak English, potentially putting patients at risk.
A Daily Mail investigation found that NHS trusts were going to recruitment fairs, especially in recession hit eurozone countries such as Spain and Portugal, and helping applicants fill in the English application forms using online translations services.
Even if they admitted to managers that their English was poor, they were being falsely reassured it ‘won’t matter’ as ‘doctors and patients will speak slowly’.
And even without this vital need to be able to communicate with patients, many of whom will be older and vulnerable, it is reported that trusts are fighting over the foreign intake, offering them bonuses of £3,000 to pick their’s over another.
They have also promised to double nurses’ salaries from £1,000 a month to £2,100 a month and told them they can do a third less work than the current staff, with some saying they will promise to find work for husbands or partners.
And while nursing students have to pay their own accommodation while they study and work on wards, the foreign nurses are being offered a month’s free accommodation, paid for by the tax payer.
Figures from the Royal College of Nursing last year found that 6 per cent of nursing posts in hospitals were vacant, that’s around 20,000 nurses. The shortfall is resulting in trusts using recruitment agencies to hire nurses en masse at £50,000 a time, on a commission basis of £2,000 per nurse.
And it’s EU legislation which allows for this risky venture to be used, because it prevents the Nursing and Midwifery Council regulator from performing language checks on the European nurses; such testing would be restricting their ‘freedom of movement’.
Nurses not covered by the EU’s ‘fundamental freedoms’ have to sit a rigorous exam and score highly in tests for the four main communication components vital to the proper functioning of a hospital ward, including reading, writing and listening.
Some nursing officials say that the bar is being pushed lower because of the nursing shortfall, with physical numbers on wards deemed more important in the wake of the Mid-Staffordshire hospital report which criticised understaffing.
Last year a whistleblower at Colchester hospital revealed how most of the fifty Spanish nurses the trust had recently hired couldn’t read an patient’s drug chart and had been banned from working without a supervisor.
Patients have also spoken of frustrations at being unable to communicate with the staff responsible for their health and care.
The reliance on foreign nurses has been blamed in part on the Government cutting the number of training posts by 15 per cent since 2010 so there are fewer graduating.
Any perceived short term savings in the training budget, however, is a false economy, since the money is used in golden handshakes to foreign nurses.
And the sourcing of staff from other countries, particularly the developing world, has also been criticised with campaigners saying it is wrong to cut training opportunities for British students and then take much needed medical staff away from poor countries where their expertise is desperately needed.
But nursing students in UK universities have to pay tuition fees, accommodation costs as well as the usual costs of living to train to join a profession which does not have a very impressive salary scale.
The father of one nursing student in London told Breitbart London: “My daughter worked hard to secure her place and has to work long hours as a care assistant to pay for her accommodation while training. It is completely wrong that places are being handed to foreign nurses on a plate, and even worse that they escape many of the financial struggles which are the every day lot of British nursing students.”
Dr Peter Carter of the Royal College of Nursing accused the trusts of “papering over the cracks that formed when the UK was failing to train and retain its own nurses”.
‘There is no excuse for having nurses arrive on wards without good communication skills and all the clinical skills needed to deliver high levels of care.’
And Katherine Murphy, chief executive of the Patients Association warned that “there can sometimes be communication difficulties which increases the chances of something going wrong or patients receiving less than optimal care.”
‘We are wasting precious NHS money on overseas recruitment firms when we should be investing in training more British nurses.’