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New language checks for EU nurses

New language checks for EU nurses
22nd January 2016

Any nurses and midwives coming to the UK will now need to show that their English language skills are up to scratch.

New rules, which came into force at the start of the year, mean the Nursing and Midwifery Council will be able to test any applicants coming from EU countries if they can't provide evidence that they have competent English language skills.

Appropriate evidence could include proof of having worked or trained in an English-speaking country or a qualification.

Until now, these language rules only applied to nurses living outside of the EU, but calls to alleviate patient concerns have seen them be expanded.

The change brings nurses and midwives in line with doctors, who are already tested on their language skills for patient safety.

Chief executive of the Nursing and Midwifery Council Jackie Smith said the new rules would help patients feel more confident about talking with nurses.

She said: "From now on, all nurses and midwives applying to join the register from outside the UK, including the EU, will have to demonstrate they can communicate effectively to a high standard of English."

Ms Smith added that it was fundamental to patient safety that all nurses can communicate with patients and [-] a principle that is central to the code of the Nursing and Midwifery Council.

The changes will see the body able to test anyone who they may have doubts about, but will mean that not everyone will be asked to undertake it when they enter the UK, as long as they have trained in Europe.

A recent study published in the British Medical Journal (BMJ) Online found that patients feel less confident about their treatment if they are cared for by nurses educated abroad.

"Along with the new EU alerts mechanism, which will make it easier to share any fitness to practise information with other EU Member States, this will greatly improve patient safety," Ms Smith said.

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