Saturday, 20 July 2024

From The Liberty Wall – National Liberal Trade Unionists Debate (5) – Is It Racist To Want NHS Nurses To Speak English?

NATIONAL LIBERAL TRADE UNIONISTS – NLTU – are deeply unhappy at the current state of the National Health Service. The NHS faces many challenges: the threat of privitisation, low wages and morale, outdated equipment and a unhealthy reliance (in terms of a form of self-sufficiency) on foreign workers.

In futures articles the NLTU hopes to examine all of these problems. However, we want to kick off by looking at the role of foreign NHS healtcare workers, not least because the subject was recently aired by a NHS psychiatrist, Dr. Max Pemberton. His article – – appeared in early April.

The NLTU found Dr. Pemberton’s article very thought-provoking, especially his brief mention of the EU. One of the reasons why the NLTU supported Brexit was that the policy of allowing the ‘free movement of capital and labour’ between EU member states means that big business can chase – and exploit – the lowest wages across Europe. At the same time British workers have seen with their own eyes the massive influx of Eastern European workers. Understandably they want to improve their lives – but the result of their movement has placed enormous strains upon local services. With this in mind, we found it hard to believe that other Trade Unionists who supported the Remain campaign were effectively supporting the rape of Eastern Europe.

If you have any comments specifically realting to Dr. Pemberton’s article – or the NHS in general – please leave them on the NLTU Facebook site once you see this article appear.

It goes without saying that there are no official links between Dr. Pemberton, the Daily Mail or the NLTU.


It’s not racist to want NHS nurses to speak English


The National Health Service needs to be saved. But is it healthy to be so reliant on foreign workers? Have your say.

What rot! Having control of our borders will mean that we are able to choose who can come in.

We will, therefore, be able to allow into this country those from the EU who have skills that we need, just as we currently do for those coming from outside the EU.

In fact, just over 25 per cent of the NHS medical workforce is from outside the EU — countries such as India — compared with the 10 per cent from the EU.

But why is the UK so reliant on staff from overseas in the first place? What happened?

Britain was once at the forefront of the development of biomedicine. We are head and shoulders above other nations in our contribution towards medical science. From penicillin to DNA, our discoveries have changed the course of history.

So why can’t we organise ourselves well enough to train sufficient doctors and nurses to keep the NHS afloat?

The current situation in which the NHS needs to recruit staff from all over the world, while celebrated by some of the liberal elite as evidence of how ‘inclusive’ and ‘tolerant’ we are as a nation, makes me profoundly uncomfortable.

Why is it celebrated that we effectively steal the best medical staff from impoverished, struggling countries? Why is it that we have to import staff — who may not fully understand the language, culture or practices of our country — as a matter of routine?

A House of Lords committee has now waded into the issue, saying that the NHS is ‘too reliant’ on foreign staff and blamed successive governments for failing to plan. It argues that our reliance on foreign workers is the biggest threat to the NHS.

I completely agree. I’ve seen this myself in psychiatry. In some areas of the country, nearly half of posts are unfilled simply because there aren’t the staff for them. This means trusts increasingly have to recruit from abroad.

Things are so dire that they will employ people who, frankly, I wouldn’t trust to look after my goldfish. One former colleague told me she had struggled to get work in her own country, so came here because she knew she’d walk into a job.

But if she was not deemed good enough for a job in her own country, why is she considered good enough in ours?

In one hospital where I worked, they recruited health care assistants (HCAs) from outside the EU. The interview was conducted in local dialect by a local recruiter, and one of the HCAs arrived not being able to speak a word of English. Not a word. I had to teach her how to say ‘Good Morning’ to the patients.

How could she be expected to take blood pressure readings, record the results and then tell me if there was a problem? How could she reassure anxious patients if she could not even speak to them?

Recently, a wholly unhelpful sensitivity has sprung up around talking about this, yet it has to be said: many of these recruits struggle with English, have limited written communication skills and are from different cultures with different attitudes and beliefs. Why is it considered racist to be concerned that patients can’t understand the nurse trying to explain something to them?

While we’re wasting money left, right and centre in the NHS on managers and paper-pushers who contribute absolutely nothing to the welfare of patients, why can’t the money be channelled into training adequate numbers of staff to meet our needs?

We rely on more overseas health staff than any other European country. What an embarrassment.

Rather than giving ourselves a self-satisfied pat on the back that we employ staff from all over the world, we should acknowledge that the reason we do this is because of our own ineptitude at workforce planning and hang our heads in shame.

• CHECK out our previous NLTU debates here:

National Liberal Trade Unionists Debate 1 – How Can we Achieve Our Main Aims?

National Liberal Trade Unionists Debate 2 – What Should Be Re-Nationalised?

National Liberal Trade Unionists Debate 3 – Bob Crow: What Is His Legacy?

National Liberal Trade Unionists Debate 4 – How Should Trade Unionists View The EU? (06/05/14)

• CHECK OUT issue 1 of Liberal Worker – the voice of National Liberal Trade Unionists. To get hold of your FREE pdf copy simply request it by e-mailing Also look out for more information about issue 2 in due course.

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