Voices - Language controls would improve safety and care quality, says Janet Finch

The Nursing and Midwifery Council agreed last week to consult on implementing measures to gain evidence of the English language skills of nurses and midwives trained in Europe.

The laws relating to checking the language competency are governed by a European Union directive on the mutual recognition of professional qualifications. This directive has been under review for the past few years, and we have pushed for it to include English language controls.

At the NMC, we believe that strengthening language controls will improve care quality and patient safety. We are pleased that the revised directive clarifies language requirements for European-trained nurses and midwives, and we will now carry out a consultation on our own rules.

There has been some misleading information in the national press about what language controls will mean for European nurses and midwives registering in the UK. We will not be ‘blanket’ testing applicants, as has been reported.

Under the new rules, applicants will need to provide evidence that they have the necessary knowledge of English to practise safely in UK healthcare settings. Only in cases where they cannot provide this evidence will we require that they take an examination or assessment.

Communicating clearly and effectively with patients and colleagues is a vital part of day-to-day nursing and midwifery. Tightening rules on English language competence for nurses and midwives joining the UK register is a significant step forward in public protection.

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