NHS staff reminded to speak English in front of patients

Hellesdon Hospital. Photo: Bill Smith.

Hellesdon Hospital. Photo: Bill Smith. - Credit: Archant © 2012

The region's mental health trust has reminded its staff to speak English in front of patients following complaints.

The Norfolk and Suffolk Foundation Trust sent a memo to staff asking them to not talk in a 'non-English language' to each other in front of patients.

The chairman of the mental health trust, Gary Page, said in December in a board meeting he was concerned about complaints of staff talking a language patients did not understand.

The trust looked into the complaints and found that while no harm was caused, the two incidents 'highlighted the importance of communication being understood by all'.

The NSFT's director of nursing said the staff involved with the complaints about 'communication challenges' were agency staff. Spending by the NSFT on agency workers has ballooned this year to make up for staff cuts and difficulties in recruiting nurses.

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Almost £19m has been spent since April compared to just £11.5m for the same period last year on agency staff.

The difficulty in recruiting registered and qualified nurses was highlighted in a report to go before the board today showing the NSFT had over-recruited less qualified care support workers and under- recruited nurses, particularly for night shifts.

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The trust said it was mitigating the nursing shortfall with support workers and agency staff as well as recruitment programmes.

Hospitals have also increasingly looked abroad for nursing staff to fill the recruitment gap.

The Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital (N&N) and the James Paget University Hospital in Gorleston have attended recruitment fairs in Portugal to bring in more nurses.

Nursing staff from within the EU and outside the EU sit an English language test before working in the NHS. At the James Paget, staff are told to speak English on wards and are reminded to if they do not.

A spokesman for the N&N said: 'Our staff are expected to speak English in front of patients.'

At the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in King's Lynn staff are told to speak English on wards.

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