It is not just the standard of communication and language in nurse which is being lowered. Across the board standards are being lowered in Medical Education and in service delivery. It is particularly important to have good language in Mental Health nursing… which is even harder to recruit for. It is hard to raise standards when you are in deficit…. and NHSreality is using the Norfolk region only as an example. It could be anywhere in the UK. Are our masters intentionally delivering planned incompetence?
Language tests for foreign nurses will be made easier to pass in an attempt to address NHS staff shortages.
Regulators said that they had been lobbied by hospitals desperate to hire nurses from overseas and had changed the rules to help deal with “staffing pressures”.
They insisted that relaxing the rules would not be a risk to patients. Nurses will still have to reach the same standard, but will be given more opportunity to get there.
Foreign nurses, from both inside and outside the EU, must sit English tests and are only allowed to work in the UK if they reach a certain score. At present they must reach this level in reading, writing, speaking and listening in one exam. Under the new rules, they can take the exam twice and secure a pass if they hit the standard in all four areas in at least one of the two tests.
“We are mindful of the staffing pressures in the health service and after listening to feedback from stakeholders we have introduced changes to our process,” said Jackie Smith, chief executive of the Nursing and Midwifery Council, which regulates nurses.
She added: “We will continue to listen to feedback from nurses, midwives and their employers and assess any opportunities to introduce further flexibility.”
Vacancy rates for nurses are running at 10 per cent in some parts of the health service. Last year the Home Office agreed to make it easier to hire from outside the EU by designating nursing a shortage occupation.
Health chiefs said that there was little chance of reducing the £3.6 billion bill for agency staff without hiring more doctors and nurses from overseas.
Yesterday Jeremy Hunt, the health secretary, attempted to reassure 110,000 European NHS staff potentially unnerved by a Brexit vote. “You are a crucial part of our NHS, and as a country we value you,” he said. “We all must now do everything we can to ensure our whole workforce feels secure — because that is the only way we’ll ensure we can deliver high-quality care.”
Katherine Murphy, chief executive of the Patients Association, said: “If we do employ nurses from other countries, we must ensure that they are fully qualified and . . . competent enough in English to effectively communicate with patients.” She added: “We must invest resources in the training and recruiting of nurses from within the UK, rather than embarking upon the costly recruitment of foreign nurses, who are often a short-term measure to fill a gap.”
Bosses at the Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust (NSFT)have been warned that its undergraduate education programme is not meeting standards.
Directors discussing the programme at last week’s board meeting were told the University of East Anglia (UEA) had proposed to remove its students from the trust because of the poor standard of teaching for undergraduates.
The university’s students receive training at trust-run facilities in east Suffolk, central Norfolk, Yarmouth and Waveney, which provides around £921,000 a year in service increment for teaching (SIFT) funding for the NSFT.
Medical director Bohdan Solomka presented a report to the meeting, which said UEA’s concerns represented a “key risk to the trust’s finances and reputation.”
He said that while consultants enjoyed teaching, time pressures meant less than 60% of training was being completed, compared with a 90% target to be achieved by September.
Feedback from students indicated they “feel unwelcome and a bit of a burden” when they visit the trust, Dr Solomka said. To improve performance, new job plans are being written with teaching included so that consultants are able to allocate more time for students. However Dr Solomka admitted 11 staff were yet to complete the task.
Chief executive Michael Scott said the education programme “had not moved forward as we would have wanted”.
“I don’t think we are there yet,” he added. “We’ve got to do more to move faster.”
Board chairman Gary Page asked why more had not been done to ensure the job plans were finished.
“It seems they don’t want to play ball,” he added. “Why don’t we just haul them in and tell them to do it?”
Dr Solomka said there had been improvements “but we are starting from a very low base”.
“All I can say is that it’s an improvement on last year,” he added.
The NSFT runs a separate training programme from west Suffolk for students from Cambridge, which is said to have been far more successful. Dr Solomka said the money for that scheme had been ring fenced to ensure teaching was provided.
Speaking after the meeting he said: “The feedback we have received from Cambridge University medical students undergoing mental health placements in our west Suffolk services has been very positive.
“However, we recognise the standard of teaching, in some other areas, has dropped below the high standards we would hold ourselves up to.
“We are fully committed to putting that right and to delivering excellent teaching right across student doctor placements in the trust.
“So, we intend to take what we are doing well in west Suffolk and replicate this right across our Trust in the future.
“To achieve this we are undertaking a complete review and restructure of our medical undergraduate teaching and we will be reinforcing the importance of good teaching. We will offer greater clarity on the training standards we expect our staff to offer to students, and we will offer support to those delivering the training to ensure they can meet the high standards expected.”
The numerous targets that have underpinned the Scottish health service since devolution could be swept away in a major policy shift announced by the SNP government last night.
Shona Robison, the health secretary, unveiled a review of all NHS national targets in Scotland in what could herald one of the biggest shake-ups in health policy for decades.
Ms Robison told MSPs that she was setting up an expert group to lead the review. It will examine the objectives that the Scottish health service is required to meet and decide whether this is the right way of ensuring patients receive the best care.
The announcement came as new figures were published showing that a majority of health boards have failed to meet the treatment-time target for mental health patients. According to the figures released yesterday, just five of Scotland’s 14 boards met the requirement to see at least 90 per cent of patients within 18 weeks.
Health service managers have been driven by targets since the first Labour-Liberal Democrat administration was elected in Scotland in 1999. Gradually expanded over time, these have covered everything from waiting times at accident and emergency units to the number of operations carried out and number of patients treated.