Foreign doctors will have to prove they can speak English to work in NHS
Foreign doctors who want to work in the NHS will have to prove they speak good English before treating patients.
New checks have been announced by the Government after a string of cases in which overseas doctors were blamed for poor care.
The worst proved fatal, after a German doctor gave a lethal overdose to a pensioner on his first shift. He had earlier been refused work due to his sub-standard English.
Doctors coming to Britain from outside Europe already face strict language tests. But at present, GPs and hospital doctors from countries in the European Union can work here without any national checks on their competence or language skills.
From April, new bodies of GPs called clinical commissioning groups will have a legal duty to ensure that a doctor’s English is up to scratch before they are employed.
Practitioners will have to prove that they have a ‘necessary level’ of English before treating patients in GPs’ surgeries or hospitals, the Department of Health has said.
The General Medical Council has been pushing for tougher testing in the wake of the death of David Gray in Cambridgeshire in 2008. The 70-year-old was killed when Dr Daniel Ubani gave him 20 times the legal dose of morphine.
The German doctor – on his first out-of-hours shift – had not had to prove his competence or ability with English before being employed by the Cambridgeshire NHS trust. Dr Ubani said he was confused by differences between drugs used here and in Germany.
Ministers plan to hand the GMC powers to stop doctors being given UK licences if their communication skills are a problem.
The Government will also introduce a national list which all GPs must be on to stop those rejected in one area from working elsewhere. Health minister Dr Dan Poulter said the measures were to protect patients who ‘should be able to understand and be understood by their doctor’.
He said: ‘These new checks will ensure all doctors who want to work in the NHS speak proficient English. ‘There are lots of excellent doctors from around the world in the NHS – this is simply about protecting patients.’
Niall Dickson, chief executive of the GMC, said the move will ‘strengthen patient safety’. He added: ‘Patients must be confident their doctor has the right communications skills.
‘If doctors cannot speak English to a safe standard then the GMC must be able to protect patients.’
Katherine Murphy of the Patients Association said the changes are ‘welcome, and long overdue’. She added: ‘Lessons from the past serve to highlight the tragic consequences of poor language skills.’
Dean Royles of the NHS Employers organisation said that foreign doctors had made an ‘invaluable contribution’ but safety needed to be the ‘top priority’.
Patients’ groups blast Cameron for shielding the man with no shame while vowing to prosecute incompetent hospital staff
Campaigners will today deliver a letter to David Cameron criticising his ‘deeply shameful’ behaviour in backing NHS chief Sir David Nicholson. Patients First and Cure the NHS will accuse the Prime Minister of double standards for vowing to prosecute incompetent hospital staff but not the bureaucrats behind the system.
In the letter, the campaigners argue the Government is protecting Sir David because he has ‘faithfully implemented government policies’. They also accuse ministers of a ‘callous disregard for the views of grieving relatives’ by keeping him in his post and supporting the work he has done.
The NHS chief executive is already under pressure to leave his role after presiding over the Mid Staffordshire scandal which cost up to 1,200 lives.
Today, grieving relatives will make a formal complaint to the head of the civil service about Sir David’s conduct and will call on the Government to stop ‘shield[ing] civil servants’.
It emerged yesterday that Sir David’s fate lies in the hands of the 19 directors on the NHS Commissioning Board. They have the power to pass a vote of no confidence in the chief executive and effectively sack him from his £211,000 post.
The board comprises 12 NHS members – who hold senior positions in the Health Service – and seven non-executive directors, who are experts in other fields. On Thursday the board will hold its first meeting since the report into the Mid Staffordshire scandal.
Its spokesman said there were no plans to hold a vote of confidence in Sir David’s ability to run the NHS.
But Cure the NHS will stage a silent protest outside the meeting in Manchester to demand Sir David be held to account. Its founder, Julie Bailey, said the campaign group would demonstrate at every board meeting until the under-fire civil servant resigned or was sacked.
She added: ‘Sir David Nicholson isn’t a scapegoat – he is ultimately responsible as the leader of the NHS – but he also played a direct role in the disaster at Mid Staffs.
‘In recent days we have heard that the public don’t want him and neither do the staff within the NHS.’
In the letter, campaigners accuse ministers of pursuing hospital staff who worked in ‘a climate of fear and failed [in] their duties’ but protecting ‘those who either created or failed to change that system or climate of fear’.
They add: ‘We find such double standards by the Government totally indefensible and a travesty to the memory of patients who have unnecessarily died as a result.’
British health service foots £1m bill for Polish expectant mothers living in England to return home to give birth
British taxpayers are forking out almost £1million a year for pregnant Polish women to go home and give birth in their native country, it emerged yesterday.
Under European Union rules, set up to provide emergency healthcare between member states, hundreds of Polish women are returning to their families to have their children, with the NHS picking up the bill.
Last year around 500 Poles living in the UK went back to their native land to give birth.
Given that the average cost to the NHS per birth is £1,631, Polish births alone cost the British taxpayer around £850,000 in 2012.
The situation has become more acute following the influx of immigrants into the UK from Eastern Europe over the past decade. Under EU regulations, anyone who comes to Britain to earn a living can fill in an S2 or E112 form, which entitles them to free treatment in any other member state or Switzerland.
The same applies to British women living in a European state.
Latest figures reveal that there were 1,132 cases last year where Britain paid for treatment in European Economic Area countries or Switzerland. Some 995 cases, or around 90 per cent, related to maternity care.
Of these, 519 were for treatment in Polish hospitals, with 174 cases in France and 90 in Germany. There were 74 cases in Slovakia, 49 in the Czech Republic and 21 in Hungary.
The figures are more than double that of 2010 when just 442 of the 1,498 cases related to maternity care.
Gerard Batten, UKIP spokesman on home affairs, said: ‘This is yet another example of how membership of the EU means the UK public purse is being plundered. People fleece us for whatever they can get. Unfortunately all these things are totally legal. We can only put a stop to it by leaving the EU.’
To obtain an E112 form, an NHS consultant must first agree that treatment abroad is right for the patient. The patient must also gain approval from the local health authority and the Department of Health.
Patients are treated under the same care conditions as residents of the country they go to. In nations where state healthcare is not free, the patient may have to pay a percentage of the cost.
Tory MP Chris Skidmore said: ‘When this scheme was set up it was meant to cover for emergency treatment.
‘This particular EU area should be renegotiated when the Prime Minister sets out a repatriation of powers.’
A Department of Health spokesman said: ‘Under EU rules, anyone working and paying tax where they are living, including Britons living abroad, can request treatment in another EU country.
‘This is particularly common in maternity cases where some people prefer to be around family and friends.’
Bikers are no longer hairy and dirty: Oxford dictionary revises definition to avoid offence
It certainly is silly to slur all motorbike riders but I wonder if that was what was going on? I think the original definition may still reflect common British usage. The term “biker” MAY mainly still be used to refer to scruffy gang members.
So are all motorbike riders “bikers”? Perhaps not. If you want to be expansive about it, pedal power people are also bikers.
The distinction is much clearer in Australia. In Australia a member of a motorcycle-based gang is referred to as a “bikie”, not a “biker”. And being a biker is quite respectable. I was once one myself
The lexicographers at the Oxford English Dictionary must have been worried when they were confronted by a group of angry bikers.
According to the OED definition of the breed, they turn up in gangs with ‘long hair’ and ‘dirty denims’.
And Britain’s two most famous bikers, TV cooks David Myers and Simon King, are so long-haired they frequently need ponytails.
However, the two-wheeled community has become fed up with the stereotype being perpetuated by the dictionary entry, which fell somewhere between the words ‘bijou’ and ‘bikini’.
They reasoned that the likes of Prince William, David Beckham and George Clooney also ride motorcycles and they could hardly be described as shaggy and unkempt. In fact, a survey had shown that only nine per cent of male bikers have long hair.
Faced with such evidence, the Oxford University Press, which publishes the OED, has decided to alter its definition.
The online version previously defined a biker as: ‘A motorcyclist, especially one who is a member of a gang: a long-haired biker in dirty denims.’ It now reads: ‘A motorcyclist, especially one who is a member of a gang or group: a biker was involved in a collision with a car.’
Almost three-quarters of 524 bikers polled over the old definition found it inaccurate. One in five were ‘outraged and offended’ by it.
Furthermore, 65 per cent said they spent most of their time riding alone – and were not in a gang.
The study, by insurance firm Bennetts, found today’s biker is most likely to be over 35, middle class, working in IT or telecoms and likely to ride a Honda. When the term ‘biker’ came into common usage 50 years ago, it often described gangs of leather-clad troublemakers.