Working in the healthcare setting inevitably requires effective communication with patients and colleagues.

Patient safety is of utmost concern and for this, the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) now requires EU nurses and midwives to prove that they have the necessary English language skills before they can work in Britain.

Starting Jan. 18, EU nurses and midwives must also follow the same protocol for overseas healthcare workers trained outside Europe. This means that EU professionals are now required to pass an English language assessment test if they cannot provide evidence of adequate English efficiency.

NMC Chief Executive Jackie Smith says all nurses, including those trained within Europe, who wish to join the register must exhibit high standard of English.

Effective communication between healthcare workers and patients is a basic aspect of patient safety and is a standard that lies at the core of the practice. "The Code is clear that you must be able to communicate effectively with patients and colleagues," says Smith.

The English language tests will entail assessments of the healthcare professional's reading, speaking, listening and writing skills.

"The new requirements will act to together to strengthen public protection and ensure that we are compliant with recent changes in EU legislation," the announcement states.

Aside from new nurses and midwives, NMC also said that those already working in the UK but do not meet the skills criteria may also be investigated under the new rules.

Similar protocols have been implemented for doctors in 2014 following the surge of controversies enveloping the gross negligence of Nigerian-born German citizen GP Daniel Ubani. Ubani was said to have killed his patient David Gray in 2008 after injecting a painkiller that is 10 times its recommended dose.

UK has been suffering from significant shortage of nurses. Hiring agency staff proved to be expensive for the NHS trust. In October 2015, the government lifted the ban of hiring overseas nurses to help recruitment.

From 2014 to 2015, statistical data shows that NHS and other private health institutions recruited about 8,183 nurses from different parts of the world - twice the figures from 2012 to 2013.

Photo: Garry Knight | Flickr

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