Many Healthcare Employers will welcome the new powers for professional regulators to take account of language competence when assessing a doctor or nurse's fitness to practise.
However, an English Language competency test is always going to raise concerns about indirect discrimination as those from the UK are more likely to speak English than their overseas counterparts.
Therefore, employers must continue to take care when addressing language competency concerns with staff, particularly any staff who have passed the Regulator's assessment. Where concerns arise, any measures in response must be proportionate and necessary to achieve safe levels of patient care, in order to avoid complaints of discrimination.
Organisations struggling to recruit sufficient staff numbers are likely to be concerned that these new powers might also deter applications from non-UK nationals, on whom much reliance is already placed.
In May 2010, the Coalition Agreement set out that the Government would “seek to stop foreign healthcare professionals working in the NHS unless they have passed robust language and competence tests” in order to assure patient safety and quality of care in the UK.