Monday, July 12, 2010

An affront to safety?

In The Daily Mail today, we see a report that competence tests on nurses trained in EU member states are to be scrapped, opening thousands of NHS jobs to Eastern European nurses.

Thus we are told, thousands of foreign nurses will be allowed to work in Britain without any safety checks – and all because EU rules demand that the tests are axed. They will not need to sit rigorous competence exams before treating NHS patients. And they will no longer even be required to show they have looked after patients in the past three years.

The test will still apply to non EU applicants – so a New Zealand trained nurse will have to take it. They have to show they have carried out a minimum of 450 hours' nursing in their own country in the past three years or they must attend an intensive three month course with regular tests on their knowledge and skills.

In the past five years, says The Mail, more than 40,000 nurses from the EU – including former Soviet Bloc countries such as Latvia, Lithuania and Slovakia - applied to work in Britain. But just 270 completed the course, deterred by its cost and difficulty.

Now the Nursing and Midwifery Council, which regulates nurses, has been forced to scrap both requirements because they are deemed to be "discriminatory" towards workers from EU member states.

Whether this report is true, in whole or in part, is anyone's guess. We are long past the stage where we can believe any media report uncritically. Given that the tests which can be applied to medical doctors are extremely limited, however, this sounds plausible. We will have to keep an eye on it to see if it pans out.