My warning that foreign nurses are putting patients in danger wasn't racist, says Winston
By Fiona Macrae
Last updated at 10:40 PM on 15th September 2011
Comments (60) Add to My Stories Share Lord Winston said EU regulations are a threat to medical practice in Britain
Lord Winston insisted last night that he is not racist for warning that the poor communication skills of some Eastern European nurses are putting patients in danger.
The IVF pioneer said Britain must make the EU recognise the threat posed by those who are cleared to work in the NHS despite struggling to speak English or having been out of the profession.
The comments follow his speech in the House of Lords last week in which he warned that poor communication skills in hospitals could only worsen if action was not taken.
On a visit to the British Science Festival in Bradford yesterday, Lord Winston elaborated on his views.
‘It is an important point I was making, I am not being in any way racist,’ said the Labour peer.
‘The Government really does need to recognise that the EU regulations at the moment are a very serious threat to medical practice in Britain.
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‘A nurse cannot have done any nursing for 20 years, but because of her previous qualifications she can come and work in a hi-tech unit in the UK.
Front page of last Friday's Daily Mail
‘There is a very important aspect of healing that we forget. Communicating with the patient and hearing their anxiety is often more important than the drugs they are taking.’
Under strict EU laws, the Nursing and Midwifery Council watchdog is banned from testing nurses coming to the UK from Europe on either their language or clinical skills. Such tests are deemed to restrict the ‘free movement of labour’. The same rules apply to doctors.
Lord Winston told the Daily Mail: ‘The solution ultimately is to negotiate better with Europe.
‘We cannot go back on harmonising legislation but we need to make Europe understand that healthcare is more important.’
Since the Mail revealed Lord Winston’s concerns last week, patients have told how they are being forced to use sign language because hospitals are employing foreign nurses who struggle to understand English.
Language barrier: Top doctor Lord Winston has warned that nurses who cannot speak English pose a grave danger to patients (picture posed by model)
One nurse handed out a trifle with nutty toppings to a patient with a nut allergy because they did not understand his medical notes.
The Nursing and Midwifery Council said being bound to the rule ‘presents a risk to patient safety, with concerns over EU nurses and midwives’ language competence and knowledge of modern nursing standards’.
A Department of Health spokesman said: ‘This Government is determined to make sure that foreign healthcare professionals are not allowed to work in the NHS unless they have proven their competence and language skills.’
Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2037963/My-warning-foreign-nurses-putting-patients-danger-wasnt-racist-says-Winston.html#ixzz1Y8RIYTO7