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Language Controls: Health Professionals

Volume 591: debated on Thursday 29 January 2015

We greatly value the contributions that health care professionals from all over the world have made, and continue to make to our NHS, but it is essential that they have sufficient knowledge of the English language to provide safe patient care. In 2014, changes were introduced to strengthen the law in this area for doctors, by introducing language controls for European economic area (EEA) doctors wishing to practise in the UK.

The Department of Health has since been working with the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC), the General Dental Council (GDC), the General Pharmaceutical Council (GPhC) the Pharmaceutical Society of Northern Ireland (PSNI), and with other stakeholders, to look at ways to ensure more rigorous language competency tests can be applied for nurses, pharmacists and dentists from within the EEA. This would bring language controls for EEA health care professionals in line with the language tests and controls applied to non-European applicants who wish to treat patients in the UK.

For this reason, on 3 November 2014 the Department went out to consult on proposals to allow these regulatory bodies to apply language controls to healthcare professionals seeking entry to their registers, to ensure they have a sufficient knowledge of the English language to enable them to practise safely in the UK.

The Department has today published a consultation report, “Language controls for nurses, midwives, dentists, dental care professionals, pharmacists and pharmacy technicians—proposed changes to the Dentists Act 1984, the Nursing and Midwifery Order 2001, the Pharmacy Order 2010 and the Pharmacy (Northern Ireland) Order 197—A four country consultation report” which sets out our findings has been placed in the Library of the House. It is also available online at:

The proposed legislative changes to strengthen language testing of health care professionals will be an effective way of ensuring the language competence of all overseas nurses, midwives, dentists, dental care professionals, pharmacists and pharmacy technicians. This change in the law will mark an important milestone in improving patient safety and care.

The Health Care and Associated Professions (Knowledge of English) Order 2015 will be laid in Parliament shortly.