Joined: 03 Jun 2005
|Posted: Sat Sep 10, 2011 9:09 am Post subject: NURSES WHO CANNOT SPEAK ENGLISH PUT PATIENTS IN DANGER
|Nurses who can't speak English put patients in danger: Lord Winston's stark warning over NHS workers from Romania and BulgariaSome nurses do not understand basic phrases including 'nil by mouth'
Strict EU laws mean nurses coming in from European countries cannot be tested on language skills
By Sophie Borland And Rebecca Evans
Last updated at 2:09 AM on 10th September 2011
Patients have told how they are being forced to use sign language because hospitals are employing foreign nurses who struggle to understand English.
One nurse mistakenly handed out a trifle with nutty toppings to a patient with a nut allergy because they did not understand warnings in his medical notes.
Some hospitals have resorted to sticking pictures of syringes, blankets and other medical equipment on the outside of cupboards – rather than having written lists – so all nurses know where to find everything.
Frustrating: But a breakaway in communication can also be dangerous
Language barrier: Fertility expert Lord Winston has warned that nurses who cannot speak English pose a grave danger to patients (picture posed by model)
The examples have come to light a day after the Daily Mail revealed the grave concerns of Lord Winston, who said the poor communication skills of some Eastern European nurses was putting patients in danger.
The world-renowned fertility doctor expressed particular worries over nurses from Romania and Bulgaria who had been trained in a 'completely different way'.
Clear communication: Lord Winston said nurses must be able to understand their patients
Nearly 3,000 nurses from EU countries registered with the Nursing and Midwifery Council last year, a rise of 38 per cent in just 12 months. They made up more than one in eight nurses who registered to work in Britain.
But strict EU rules mean that the NMC is banned from carrying out any checks on their English or competence as this is deemed to restrict the 'free movement of labour'.
Since the Mail's front page story yesterday, dozens of patients and NHS workers have got in touch to express their own concerns over nurses' inability to communicate with those in their care.
One man who had recently been treated in a hospital in Manchester said he had resorted to using sign language.
Another described how a foreign nurse mistakenly gave him a trifle with a nut-based topping – despite his wearing a medical bracelet stating he had a peanut allergy, a fact which was also outlined in his notes.
As a student nurse I must agree with Lord Winston. In one placement upon a neonatal unit over half the nursing staff were foreign and much of the time they only spoke their own language to one another. On one night shift I was the only English-speaker. The entire handover was done in their own language and my mentor would not communicate with me. This led to something happening to a patient that could have been avoided.
Student Nurse, NHS
I heard a nurse trying to explain the difference between a 'milligram' and a 'microgram' to a doctor about to inject drugs. The difference of course is 'correct dosage' vs 'fatal overdose'.
I work as an administrator in the NHS and see examples of this every day. Many nurses cannot write English, and when they add their nursing notes, the errors are astounding. Ensure you have access to your medical notes and those of any relatives whose care you are overseeing in hospital. It really is the only way.
Rosi, Croydon, Surrey
It is a disgrace and Lord Winston certainly knows what he is talking about. Medical staff who cannot speak English? It has been going on for years. I personally dread having to be admitted to an NHS hospital for this very reason.
Audrey McLean, Tadworth, Surrey
In the medical profession people MUST be able to understand our language. Hiring people who can't understand is nothing short of neglect.
I have worked overseas in a Swiss hospital. Before I even set foot on a ward I had to complete a written test including drugs calculations and medical terminology. I was then interviewed face to face. Anyone scoring less than 80 per cent was sent back on the next plane. I worked in French all day long and was also expected to know some German. There is no reason apart from EU bureaucracy why this cannot be done in this country.
I know what 'nil by mouth' means. I also know the importance of the term. I do not know the translation of the term into any other European language and common sense tells me that this precludes me from seeking a medical post in any of these countries.
I was in hospital once after a serious motorbike accident, I don't actually remember much but my wife tells me I was quite anxious as I thought something had happened to my brain or my speech as the nurses could not understand me. My wife went to speak to the sister on duty and came back and told me I was fine – the nurses could not speak or understand English!
Stamp collector, London
I had a foreign nurse and doctor at A&E a few years back. They didn't understand what I was trying to tell them, and I didn't understand what he was asking of me. I was very ill, and very scared. I was left in the hall, bleeding heavily, and it wasn't until the next day I spoke to someone who understood me. He read my notes, and what was put was 100 per cent WRONG. If they had given me the medicine they tried to, I would have died, as I am allergic to it.
‘Lord Winston’s warning about foreign nurses who can’t understand instructions or speak adequate English requires an immediate response from the Government. Good communication between patient and practitioner is vital, not only for reassurance but also to ensure proper treatment is received. Now, patient safety is at risk because we have allowed EU employment law to trump our quality standards. It’s time we gave some teeth back to hospitals and allowed them to ensure that all foreign nurses reach set standards of spoken English. Anything less is a betrayal of vulnerable patients.’ - Julia Manning, founder and chief executive of the think tank 2020health.org
Read the full article here
And one elderly patient in a care home was so cold he asked a nurse to light a fire, but as her English was so bad she started shouting at him explaining the building definitely wasn't burning down.
The NMC yesterday admitted that the current situation 'puts patients at risk'.
A spokesman added that the regulator has 'regularly expressed concerns' about the legislation, adding: 'Language competence is one of several aspects of the directive we wish to see amended in the interests of patient safety.'
Although in theory all other EU countries are bound by the same rules, some, including France, manage to get round them by ensuring candidates are tested by local health trusts rather than by a national watchdog.
Bizarrely, the rules do discriminate against British nurses wanting to return to work after time off having children, for example.
If a British-trained nurse has not practised for more than three years, they have to prove their medical training is up to date or go on a course before being allowed back to work.
Howard Catton, policy director from the Royal College of Nursing said: 'Patient safety is the overriding principle and there is an issue here that needs to be addressed.
'The Nursing and Midwifery Council should be allowed to test their language and also ensure their medical training is up to date – which is equally as important. Patients need to be confident that nurses properly understand their pain and symptoms.
'If they are trying to explain where they feel pain, the nurse needs to know exactly what they are saying.'
Why didn't Lord Winston speak out when these rules were implemented? Of course, he was best buddies with Blair, whose Government opened our boundaries to all and sundry from the EU with no restrictions. English nurses are not employed in France unless they can satisfy the Medical Board that their French is up the required standard and that their qualifications are acceptable. Surely, that is the least we can expect. I do not need a hypocriitcal Labour Lord to point out the blindingly obvious.
I defy a single Europhile to defend this ludicrous situation. The EU is a millstone around the neck of this country and is crippling us with beuracracy and financially. The only way is out out out!
We would not have this situation if our lords and masters would give the people of this Island a vote on the EU, not to worry though when we have our spring unprising everyone of those involved will be on lamp posts for what they have done to our country.