Responding to the Health Secretary’s announcement of new proposals for language testing of overseas doctors, Dean Royles, director of the NHS Employers organisation, said:

“Language competency and effective communication is a very important issue for patients and for staff working alongside doctors trained overseas. We are pleased that these changes will allow new NHS applicants to be robustly checked.

“It is however also essential that we recognise and celebrate the contribution that doctors and other staff trained overseas have made to the development of the NHS since its inception. They continue to play a vital role in delivering high quality care today.

“It will always be down to the employers to carry out pre-employment checks and we need to ensure that any new arrangements are pragmatic and workable.

“Most employers are assessing language and communication skills already through the assessment and interview process. Guidance and clarity from the government in this area is a welcome help to all employers who will continue to improve the checking process. While the focus is on doctors, employers also recognise that language skills must be adequate across all front-line workers, including nurses and specialists, and are working hard to ensure that this is the case.

“Employers already meet a range of employment checks standards for the recruitment and selection of staff. They will welcome this addition to the Medical Act as part of that process for the recruitment of doctors, satisfying the organisation’s responsible officer that appropriate standards and systems are in place.”