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HCL Supports Reform of Language Testing for International Doctors

HCL Supports Reform of Language Testing for International Doctors
Company stresses that all its international doctors meet or exceed all required qualifications and language competency
HCL plc, one of the UKs leading health and social care staffing companies, today welcomed the British Medical Associations calls for a review of the processes which overseas doctors must undergo before they can work in the NHS but stressed that the NHS relies on overseas professionals and so highly qualified and talented international doctors should not be discriminated against.
Overseas professionals, especially nurses, doctors and allied health professionals, make up a significant proportion of NHS frontline services. For example, General Medical Council figures show that more than 91,000 of the UKs 243,900 registered doctors gained their medical qualification outside Britain.
Kate Bleasdale, Executive Vice Chairman of HCL plc, commented: Demographic trends suggest that the NHS will need more, not less, overseas workers in coming years. The UK population is ageing and will need more frequent and acute care we now have more people aged over 65 in the UK than we do under 16, and the number of over-65s is expected to double in the next 20 years. At the same time, our UK healthcare workforce is itself ageing over a third of the current nursing workforce is expected to retire in the next decade, and there are not enough school leavers entering the caring professions. Whilst we whole-heartedly support initiatives to attract, train and retain "home-grown" talent for the NHS, this is not enough to meet the current shortfall and so its inevitable that we also look beyond our borders to source highly skilled professionals.
Currently, healthcare professionals from outside the EU have to sit tough language and competence tests before they can work in the NHS. But European law states that candidates from within the EU are exempt from these mandatory language tests.
Bleasdale explained: Under current rules we are seeing situations where, say, French or Spanish doctors can start work in the UK without having to demonstrate fluency in English at all. But healthcare professionals from Australia, New Zealand or Canada, whose first language is English, must undergo an expensive and time consuming examination process. Clearly the system is in need of reform because at the moment it just slows up the process by which we can get skilled, English speaking doctors on the wards and treating patients.
Hospitals and patients want medical professionals who are highly trained, skilled and speak fluent English. Thats what we want too. That is why HCL plc is proud to adhere to the UK Department of Healths guidelines on ethical international recruitment, and why we ensure that compliance and skills checks on all our candidates meet all legal requirements and exceed the highest standards of best practice.
Bleasdale concluded: With a rapidly growing and ageing population we must do everything we can to ensure that the NHS can cope with the demands for its services. And in the current economic climate, the NHS has to be able to recruit high quality staff in an efficient and cost-effective manner.
Pinning blame on agencies who supply international healthcare professionals is not the answer. The NHS needs to work more closely with reputable agencies like ourselves to continue to ensure that they get doctors who are highly skilled, able to communicate well, and can ensure the best possible standard of patient care.


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