Government to Invest £6 Million in Shoring Up NHS Language Skills

The government has stated that it intends to make nearly £6 million available in order to ensure that medical staff and other key frontline public servants are able to speak fluent English.

This is intended to fulfil a Conservative party manifesto promise which was first made back in 2015.

Although this affects all aspects of public service, it is particularly aimed at the NHS, in which language difficulties have caused some serious problems.

Cabinet Office minister Ben Gummer asserted in a public statement that the government would “assure citizens that there is not a language barrier that might prevent them from contacting or using public services or inadvertently put them at risk”.

Having officially assessed the issue, the government department run by Gummer cited two particular reports which indicated that poor English language skills had caused massive difficulties for the public and healthcare.

The first was a study conducted in 2011 which surveyed half of doctors resident in England, finding 66 cases of ‘linguistic concern’ among them.

And the second report was conducted by the business department in 2011 and found “various cases” where businesses suffered “communication barriers” that resulted in complaints from the public.

There has also been evidence emanating from the General Medical Council on this issue, with the authoritative body indicating that it rejects approximately 40% of the foreign doctors appointed to work in the UK due to unsatisfactory language skills.

Concerns regarding this issue where catalysed by the death in 2008 of the David Gray, who died after being administered with 10 times the recommended amount of dosage of a deadly medication by Daniel Umani; a German-born doctor.

Commenting on the issue, Gummer suggested that the language issue was crucial to retain public confidence in the National Health Service.

“The government believes that the public should expect that all those with whom they interact, within the sphere of public services, have the language abilities required to respond to their needs.”

Unison were somewhat critical of this initiative, stating that the climate among European workers after the British referendum to exit the EU was not ideal for such a decision.

The trade union which represents public-sector workers suggested that European workers could be made to feel even less welcome in the UK.

Christina McAnea, Unison’s head of health, noted the contribution made by European workers in the health service.

“The NHS and the social care sector would be in dire straits without European workers. Many may now understandably be looking to take their careers and their experience elsewhere.”

With officials already counting the cost and assessing the logistics of this new policy, it has been estimated that familiarising HR staff across the entirety of the public sector will cost in the region of £1.2 million.


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