Specialist Language Courses

July 2014: NHS Employers ‘Language Competency – Good Practice Guidance for Employers

The NHS Employers publication, ‘Language Competency: Good Practice Guide for Employers’, updated in October 2015, states:

‘It is the responsibility of any employer or organisation contracting health services to assure themselves that each employee or contractor has the appropriate language competence to undertake their specified post.

While inclusion on the register of a professional regulatory body indicates that a person is fit to practise in a profession generally, employers have an additional duty to ensure that each individual, whether in a regulated profession or not, is competent to carry out safely and effectively the specific duties of the role appointed to, including establishing suitability of language competence – ‘fit for purpose’ rather than ‘fit to practise’.’

This document then goes on to look at how English language competence can be demonstrated in practice.

Interestingly, it still talks about EEA nationals not requiring routine language assessment to demonstrate English language competency. This compares with reality of recent changes to the registration of EU-trained doctors and nurses, which seemingly requires all doctors to have an IELTS 7.5 and all nurses to have an IELTS 7.0 unless they have trained and worked in an English-speaking country. This harmonises the situation with those doctors and nurses from outside the EEA who also require an IELTS score at this level.

And while the guide references other English language tests such as the TOEIC or TOEFL tests as well as a Europass CV, where candidates can self-assess their language levels, it does not clearly state just how vital IELTS now is for medical professionals – or say that international candidates are required to take the Academic IELTS as opposed to the General Training IELTS.

There is some useful information on what level of English an IELTS score of 7.0 implies in the appendix – you;ll need to look at the descriptors for C1 advanced level. There’s also a breakdown of what different regulatory bodies are looking for, so not just the NMC or GMC, but also the General Dental Council, General Optical Council and the Healthcare.