Hospital Bosses Admit ‘Some of Our Doctors Can’t Speak or Understand English’

Daily Mail (London), March 22, 2011

The level of English among some foreign doctors is ‘absolutely awful’, hospital bosses have said.

Some cannot even speak well enough to communicate with patients, they warned.

Bosses at Queen’s Hospital in Burton upon Trent, Staffordshire, revealed the poor level of English in their doctors from overseas after complaints from both staff and patients.

Chief executive of the Burton Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust Helen Ashley said many of the problems centred on them being unable to understand English sufficiently.

The hospital is struggling to employ middle grade, registrar-level doctors, and has on occasion to employ a locum doctor to cover a shift, Ms Ashley said.

While the application process for consultants involved their English and communication skills being tested with simulation of a meeting with a patient, Ms Ashley said she could not account for the English skills of locums, who work at the hospital on a temporary basis.

Helen Ashley said the hospital has been forced to rely on locums whose English isn’t always up to standard

She added doctors from India and Pakistan had similar training to English doctors but due to changes to the NHS recruitment process and the drop in the value of the pound, many now prefer to go to work in countries such as Australia and New Zealand.

The chairman of the Burton Hospitals Trust, Jim Morrison, said: ‘I don’t want to sound racist, but some of the worst-speaking doctors that I have come across have been from Europe.

‘They are free to travel in Europe and occasionally their communication of English can be absolutely awful.’

Local people in the town have also complained about the issue.

Chairman of East Staffordshire Borough Council’s health sub-committee, Trevor Hathaway, told a meeting at Burton Town Hall: ‘A couple of weeks ago, a relative of mine met a consultant and he couldn’t understand a word he was saying.

‘Not only that, the nurse had to tell him what to write on the paperwork.’

Ms Ashley added: ‘That’s not the first time I have heard that, or seen it in a complaint letter.

‘We had one doctor there were two or three complaints about his language skills.

‘He was hard to understand.’

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