British nurse who returned from Australia to work in NHS is told: Take an English test!
Brought up in Cambridge and boasting a degree in Latin and history, Katherine Broadbent could be forgiven for thinking her ability to speak English would be beyond question. That was, however, until she tried to get a job with the NHS.
After returning from working as a nurse in Australia, the mother-of-one has been told she must sit a costly series of exams to prove her fluency before she is allowed on UK wards.
Despite being British, because she did her medical training outside of Europe, Mrs Broadbent will have to take an International English Language Test to register with the Nursing and Midwifery Council. By contrast, thanks to a European ruling in 2006, nurses who qualify in EU countries are exempt from the same tests to work here – even if they can barely speak English.
Mrs Broadbent spent the first 26 years of her life in the UK before moving to Canberra shortly after graduating. She completed a nursing degree before working in intensive care and cancer wards of a hospital for nine years.
But earlier this year she decided to return home, settling with her husband Robert, 44, and two-year-old daughter Elke near the Cotswold town of Lechlade.
After being told she must pay £125 to sit the day-long IELT exam – which tests English reading, writing, speaking and listening – Mrs Broadbent, 40, wrote to the Department of Health and the NMC to appeal. Their response was that there can be ‘no individual dispensations’.
She said: ‘There’s been a real lack of common sense and that has been really frustrating. ‘We lived for a long time in Australia and the systems over there were much simpler. ‘I would understand if I did my training in a non English-speaking country, but to include Australia is ridiculous.
‘We decided to come back to the UK before our daughter was at school age to decide where we wanted to live. ‘I thought it would be really simple to start working as a nurse and was looking forward to starting in a hospital.
‘The process has been quite long and I thought there would be someone who would understand that I’m British and already have another degree from this country. All I received though was letters saying there could not be exceptions. ‘The test is quite expensive and was around £500 if I sat it in Australia.’
Royal College of Nursing General Secretary Dr Peter Carter said: ‘It is reasonable that communications skills are tested but, regardless of their background, nurses should not be discouraged by the cost of language testing.’
The bizarre situation comes after the Daily Mail revealed NHS patients were being put in danger after European nurses were resorting to sign language as they could not speak English.
One 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.
Lord Winston, the world-renowned fertility doctor, expressed concerns last year about Romanian and Bulgarian nurses working in the NHS who had been trained in a ‘completely different way’.
The NMC said all nurses from Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, Canada and the US would have to pass an IELT exam before registering. A spokesman added: ‘This ensures that all applicants meet the same standard in a system that is equitable, fair and non-discriminatory.’
The Department of Health said the NMC was responsible for ‘rigorous standards’ but would not comment on Mrs Broadbent’s case.
Heart virus kills young mother, 28, after lazy doctors kept saying it was indigestion
Whenever I quote one of my diagnostic tests to doctors in discussions about a diagnosis, the first thing they ask me is: “How long ago”? But I use private doctors and the NHS is obviously not that sophisticated. That the results of a diagnostic test might be outdated obviously occurred to none of the doctors below
A young mother died from a heart condition after doctors repeatedly told her she only had heartburn when she complained of severe chest pains. Gemma Jones, 28, had suffered crushing agony in her arms, abdomen and chest for months before she collapsed and died at her home.
But while she had seen various doctors about her symptoms – one just three days before her death – she was consistently misdiagnosed, it was claimed.
An inquest heard Miss Jones could have been saved by a simple ECG test. This would have shown that she did not have acid reflux, as doctors told her, but a potentially fatal inflammation of the heart caused by a virus.
Last night, her fiance Philip Medhurst condemned doctors for allegedly ignoring her series of complaints. He suffered the agony of finding Miss Jones lying collapsed in bed at their home in Daventry, Northamptonshire.
Mr Medhurst also paid an emotional tribute, saying: ‘Gemma was loved immensely and will always be in our hearts.’
Miss Jones, who had a son Harry, had first complained of chest pains in October 2010 and was given an ECG – electrocardiogram – but the results were normal.
Complaining that she felt huge pressure on her chest, she returned to see doctors in 2011 and then in the months before she died in March, including an appointment three days before her death.
But rather than repeat the test, which measures the heart’s electrical activity, GPs sent her home, telling her she simply had acid reflux. This is when acid from the stomach leaks up into the gullet, causing symptoms including indigestion, heartburn and chest pain.
The inquest at Northampton General Hospital heard that an autopsy showed ‘chronic inflammation’ of her heart from diffused viral myocarditis. The condition would have been detected by repeating the ECG.
Paramedic Nicola Kirk, who was the first to treat Miss Jones after she collapsed, told the hearing she was ‘surprised’ the problem had not been diagnosed.
After the hearing, Mr Medhurst insisted his fiancee should have been offered an ECG. ‘She said it felt as if someone was applying huge pressure to her chest. She went back and forth to the surgery but was just told it was acid reflux,’ he said. ‘The Thursday before she passed away, she went to the surgery again, and again was told it was acid reflux.
‘If Gemma had been given an ECG, it would have shown up and she could have been treated.’
Dr Francis Somerset, from Abbey House Medical Practice, told the inquest Miss Jones had an ECG in October 2010, with normal results. He said he saw her once after that, in September 2011. ‘It is rare and very serious,’ he said. ‘It sends a shiver down my back. I am glad I was not the last person to see her.’
Miss Jones’s last appointment was with Dr Asma Saad, a GP registrar, who told the inquest the patient had not mentioned chest pains. Asked if she would have ordered an ECG if Miss Jones had done so, the doctor said: ‘Definitely. We would have ordered an ECG there and then. It would have rung alarm bells.’
Northamptonshire coroner Anne Pember recorded a verdict of death by natural causes. She said: ‘I can only remember two cases of the condition in 17 years as county coroner.’
British Middle classes forced out of private education as costs rise at twice rate of inflation over 10 years
Thousands of middle-income families have been priced out of private schools by inflation-busting fee rises. Average fees have risen at nearly twice the rate of inflation over the past ten years.
The increases mean that private schooling is now beyond average earners in well-paid occupations, including pharmacists, architects, IT experts, engineers and scientists. A decade ago, these professionals would have been able to afford to pay fees out of earned income. Now, however, they would struggle without funding from other sources, according to the study.
The average annual fee for a day pupil at a private school is £11,457, up from £6,820 in 2002, researchers found. Charges have risen 68 per cent in that period, 1.8 times faster than retail price inflation over the same period, which was up 37 per cent.
Private school fees are considered affordable if they account for 25 per cent or less of the average annual full-time salary before tax.
But £11,457 represents 35 per cent of this average, which stands at £33,011, according to the study by Lloyds TSB Private Banking. In 2002, fees would have taken 27 per cent.
Suren Thiru, economist at the bank, said the rises make it ‘increasingly difficult for the average worker in many occupations to afford a private education for their offspring’.
Those who can most easily afford the fees include accountants, senior police officers, airline pilots and production managers as fees represent 19 per cent of their annual earnings.
The findings follow a warning this year from the former head of a top private school that the sector is losing public confidence by becoming the preserve of the super-rich.
Dr Martin Stephen, formerly of St Paul’s School, West London wrote: ‘Independent schools have put themselves in a very dangerous position; even more dangerous because they don’t realise the danger.
‘They are pricing themselves out of the reach of most normal people in the UK. The independent sector is becoming socially exclusive in a way not seen since Victorian times.’
Dr Stephen is now director of education at GEMS, an international schools group aiming to make private education ‘affordable’.
He added: ‘The sector has become too dependent on overseas parents and is profiting from a state sector in some turmoil as a result of radical change. Independents need to realign themselves with their clients.’
The biggest rises in fees have been in London and the South West, both up 79 per cent from 2002-12. Next were East Anglia (74 per cent) and the East Midlands and South East, both at just under 70 per cent.
The number of pupils enrolled at private schools has also fallen over the decade, according to the study.
British government Minister raps politicians’ silence on immigration
A minister has criticised the ‘failure of mainstream politics’ to discuss immigration as the Government launched a three-pronged crackdown on illegal migrants.
Immigration Minister Damian Green said for years it had been ‘almost impolite’ for politicians to raise concerns about unprecedented numbers flowing into the UK, a silence which he said had allowed extremist parties, such as the BNP, to harvest votes.
He spoke out as it emerged a university had become the first in the UK to be stripped of its right to educate foreign students.
A UK Border Agency audit found numerous failings at London Metropolitan University, including allowing students to take lessons without valid visas and failing to report that some who had been granted visas, then failed to enrol on or attend courses.
Meanwhile, Home Secretary Theresa May launched a drive to stop abuse of the UK’s marriage laws which have allowed migrants to stay here illegally.
Ministers will change the rules so ceremonies can be delayed for investigations. Last year a vicar was jailed for staging 300 fake weddings – including couples who did not speak the same language.
Mr Green said the silence around the UK’s doors being thrown open was filled by extremist parties such as the BNP, who then harvested votes from those who were concerned.
Nearly 3.5million immigrants arrived in the UK during Labour’s 13 years in power between 1997 and 2010, with the tide increasing when ten former Soviet Bloc countries joined the European Union in 2004.
Critics say public services, including schools, hospitals and transport, have struggled to cope with the influx, while some employers have been accused of using cheap, or illegal, foreign workers.
In a radio interview with LBC Radio, Mr Green said immigration had been like ‘turning on a tap’ under Labour.
He added: ‘On top of that, it was almost impolite to talk about immigration and the result of those two things happening at once was the rise of extremist politicians who scapegoated, really unpleasant parties like the BNP.
‘You saw that they rose at a time when politicians were afraid to talk about immigration so it’s very important that mainstream, moderate politicians of all parties actual deal with it as a problem.’
He compared immigration under Labour to ‘an oil tanker steaming hard in the wrong direction’ but insisted the Government was ‘getting to grips’ with the issue.
He spoke out as it emerged a controversial university had become the first in the country to be stripped of its right to educate foreign students.
London Metropolitan University’s licence will be revoked after the Home Office branded it a ‘threat to immigration control’.
Officials at the UK Border Agency identified so many failings at LMU, which has 2,600 students from outside the European Union, that it could not be trusted to ensure foreign students did not become illegal immigrants.
An audit found the university allowed students to take lessons without valid visas to stay in Britain, did not report that some granted visas failed to enrol on or attend courses, and did not test students to check they could speak English.
Malcolm Gillies, LMU’s vice-chancellor, said the university was ‘disappointed’ by the news.
He said in the past six weeks the university had ‘done everything it could to demonstrate that it… has worked to remedy past weaknesses’.
Mr Green said a national campaign to crackdown on foreigners who stayed in the UK after their student visas had expired had caught 2,000.
He said: ‘We find that a lot of those are people who came here on a student visa, maybe did study for a year or maybe didn’t study at all, but they then hang around after their visa is over and it’s clear that their main intention for coming here was to work. That kind of abuse enrages people.’
Mr Green said: ‘At the moment a registrar has the duty to marry someone if they can’t see any legal impediment then they have to marry them.
‘What we’re going to do is give the powers to say, “Actually I’m not going to marry you, because this doesn’t look like a proper marriage to me”.’
In the third prong of the crackdown, migrants who falsely claim benefits after coming to Britain to work, study or visit face being stripped of welfare payments, according to leaked documents.
Nearly 20,000 people who arrived from outside Europe will be the first to be targeted in the new crackdown which will begin next month.
They will receive a letter from the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) telling them to send back a photocopy of their passport or residence permit within 28 days, according to the Sunday Telegraph. If they cannot, they must email the UK Border Agency (UKBA) with a range of identifying information.
In total, 370,000 people who came to Britain as visitors, students or workers are now on work-related benefits.
Foreign-born claimants is understood to make up 6.5 per cent of the total 5.5 people on benefits in the UK.
Priests attack gay marriage in strongly-worded letter read out across Scotland’s 500 Catholic churches
The Roman Catholic Church in Scotland yesterday staged a day of protest over plans to legalise gay marriage.
A letter attacking proposals to give the go-ahead for same-sex marriages was read out by priests across the country’s 500 Catholic churches, demanding politicians ‘sustain rather than subvert marriage’.
It said: ‘The church’s teaching on marriage is unequivocal: It is uniquely the union of a man and a woman and it is wrong that governments, politicians or parliaments should seek to alter or destroy that reality.’
The Scottish government later issued a statement reiterating its intentions to legalise same sex marriage and religious ceremonies for civil partnerships – because ‘it is the right thing to do’.
However it was quick to stress that no clergy would be forced to carry out the ceremonies in a church. The issue remains under consultation in England and Wales. A government spokesman said: ‘We are equally committed to protecting religious freedom and freedom of expression, and ensuring that religious celebrants opposed to same-sex marriage do not have to solemnise same-sex ceremonies.’
The Catholic Church’s letter also announced the launch of a ‘National Commission for Marriage and the Family’ to co-ordinate a campaign against gay marriage. It is expected to be supported by the Catholic Church in England and Wales.
Last week Cardinal Keith O’Brien, the leader of the Catholic Church in Scotland, who has described gay marriage as a ‘grotesque subversion of a universally accepted human right’, broke off discussions on the issue with First Minister Alex Salmond.
Other churches in Scotland have also voiced concern about the same sex marriage plans. The Church of Scotland feared the Scottish Government was ‘rushing ahead of something that affects all the people of Scotland without adequate debate and reflection.’
But the Equality Network, which is campaigning in support of same-sex marriage in Scotland, urged politicians to stand firm over the plans.
Tom French, the charity’s policy co-ordinator, said: ‘It is increasingly clear that the Church has an anti-gay agenda that it wants to impose on the rest of society.’
Throughout the UK, civil partnerships for same-sex couples have been legal since 2005. These confer the same rights as heterosexual civil marriage, but go by a different title and cannot be solemnised by a religious ceremony.
Scotland will be the first part of the UK to bring in new legalisation that will end all distinctions between the two types of union.
In Westminster, the Government’s consultation on allowing marriages for gay and lesbian couples in England and Wales closed in June. The results will be considered by the coalition before publishing its formal response ahead of the next election.
However, it is expected there will be similar opposition from the Catholic Church in this country if legalisation of same-sex marriage goes ahead.
Earlier this year, the Archbishop of Westminster warned that David Cameron’s pledge to legalise homosexual marriage would threaten the true meaning of a sacred union. In a letter read from pulpits across England and Wales in March, it was warned that plans to extend marriage to same-sex couples would be a ‘profoundly radical step’ that reduces it to a vague commitment between two people.
The consultation process carried out by the Scottish Government found just over 80 per cent of respondents in favour of same sex marriage.
Record EU students to get ‘free’ Scottish degree
The number of university places available for Scottish students is being squeezed by record levels of youngsters from other EU countries taking advantage of the SNP’s offer of a taxpayer-funded degree, it has emerged.
Successful applications by youngsters from the Continent are up 3.6 per cent on the same time last year when the previous record was set. The annual £75 million cost of providing them with ‘free’ degrees appears certain to increase further.
Although SNP ministers have boasted of allocating a set number of “protected places” for Scottish applicants, this quota also includes places given to EU students.
A loophole caused by European anti-discrimination laws mean children from the Continent benefit from the SNP’s promise of “free” degrees for Scottish youngsters.
Mike Russell, the Education Minister, announced almost 18 months ago he was examining introducing a charge for EU students that would not apply to Scots but no proposals have been forthcoming since.
Scotland is now expected to be the only part of the UK where admissions by EU students will increase as elsewhere they have to pay tuition fees.
Opposition parties last night said it was another example of the SNP’s higher education funding policies restricting places for Scottish youngsters.
The Daily Telegraph last week disclosed last week how other Scottish universities are being forced to offer thousands of clearing places to fee-paying international and English students only.
Universities confirmed that the number of ‘protected places’ for Scottish and EU students effectively acts as a cap on the number they can recruit. They are threatened with fines if they go more than 10 per cent above their quota.
In the most extreme example of the two-tier clearing system, Aberdeen and Stirling universities said no Scottish students would be allocated a place on the 137 courses with spaces available.
Liz Smith, Scottish Tory Education spokesman, said last night: “Mike Russell has done nothing to resolve the EU loophole and that’s putting additional pressure on the number of places available to Scottish students.
“That is in addition to the clearing situation, where Scottish students are being turned away anywhere where the quota has been reached.”
According to official figures, 3,535 EU students had been accepted in Scottish universities by A-level results day last week, an increase of 123 compared to the same time last year.
The 3.6 per cent increase was more than the 3.1 per cent rise in the number of Scottish students given a place. Data published by the Higher Education Statistics Agency has shown the number of EU students has almost doubled over the past decade to 15,930.
The Scottish Government said acceptances for fee-paying school leavers from the rest of the UK is 10 per cent up (419) compared to last year, while the total for international students from outside the EU is 7.7 per cent down (201).
Mr Russell has replied to a letter from his opposition shadows calling on him to reform the clearing system and give Scottish youngsters a level playing field.
He confirmed: “There is no question of a place protected for a Scottish / EU student being taken by a student from anywhere else.”
However, he brushed off questions about what happens when the Scottish quota is reached, stating that: “Places available through clearing for Scottish students have always been limited and the clearing system is becoming less relevant to the majority of Scottish students.”
Although this newspaper has been contacted by upset Scottish students unable to obtain a clearing place, he blamed the media for generating “highly regrettable and completely avoidable instances of anguish”.
Old-fashioned light bulbs banned by EU directive can still be sold in Britain after traders find loophole allowing them to be renamed
Shoppers fed up with feeble energy-saving light bulbs are getting round the EU ban on traditional bulbs by buying models meant for industrial use.
The European ban on 40-watt bulbs is being phased in from this coming Saturday, September 1, following bans already imposed on 100W and 60W versions.
But poor drafting of the EU directive banning the 40W bulb means that shops can continue to supply bulbs intended for ‘industrial use’ in factories.
At least two British manufacturers are exploiting the loophole to mass-produce ‘rough-service’ bulbs, which look almost identical to and work in exactly the same way as traditional incandescent bulbs.
Their availability will be welcomed by those who say the energy-saving variety is not bright enough.
The rough-service bulbs come in both screw and bayonet versions, and will cost around £1 – not much more than the household bulbs they will replace and half the price of energy-saving alternatives.
They are not being sold by major supermarkets but will be available from specialist lighting and hardware shops and online retailers.
The loophole has occurred because the EU directive banning 40W incandescent bulbs refers only to those intended for ‘household lamps’, meaning shops can continue selling those intended for ‘industrial use’. Manufacturers are allowed to make and sell the incandescent bulbs if they are described on the box as ‘rough-service lamps’ that are not for domestic use.
These bulbs are designed to withstand the knocks and vibrations of industrial settings, and are therefore tougher than the ordinary variety.
From Saturday, retailers will not be allowed to buy any more incandescent bulbs covered by the ban, although they will be able to sell existing stock.
Ian Fursland, managing director of The Lamp Company in Hertfordshire, said there were ‘bucketloads’ of rough-service lights being produced. ‘This stupid ban was not thought out at all, it is absolutely ridiculous,’ he said. ‘We sell loads of them.
‘You cannot get a compact fluorescent or an LED that does what an incandescent does – it’s physically impossible. They don’t warm up as quickly, they glow a different colour, and they are ridiculously expensive.’
At the Bradford branch of Maplin last week, a pack of ten 100W rough-service bulbs was on sale for £6.99 and described on the shelf as ‘ideal for home use’.
Online retailer Lamps2udirect offers a 60W ‘tough’ incandescent bulb for 90p. The description on the website says: ‘Can be used for industrial and household use. Commonly used in living areas around the home.’
One manufacturer said that it had already sold more than five million rough-service bulbs to suppliers.
The National Measurement Office, the Government agency responsible for enforcing the ban on traditional bulbs, warned householders against buying rough-service bulbs.
An official guidance paper says such bulbs are ‘declared by the manufacturer as unsuitable’ for illuminating household rooms and adds: ‘Consideration should be given to the terms and conditions of any household insurance policy if such lamps are used for illuminating your house.’ [Bluff!]