A Cypriot nurse who was working at the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital (NNUH) has been suspended from the profession after she failed to pass English tests.Eleni Stavrou worked in the hospital’s emergency assessment unit surgical from February 8 to April 25 last year.
But in May 2016, concerns were raised about Miss Stavrou’s lack of English, and NNUH referred her to the regulator for nursing and midwifery professions, the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC).
The NMC heading, held last month, heard how on October 22 2016, Miss Stavrou took an International English Language Test (IELTS), in which nurses must score 7.0 in to be able to register in the UK.
However Miss Stavrou – who has now returned to Cyprus – came away with an overall average score of 5.5.
There have been calls for the pass rate to be lowered to 6.5, to bring it in line with other countries such as the USA, Australia and Canada.
And more than 3,600 nurses signed a petition to that effect.
The IELETS exam has been used for nurses and midwives from outside the European Union since 2007, but in January 2016 it was rolled out to all applicants who did not train in the UK.
However, some reports suggest it is taking applicants between eight and 12 months to pass the exam, with the majority of applicants needing more than one attempt.
And recruitment agencies and nursing leaders have warned this has caused delays in overseas recruitment, which is needed to fill positions as UK nursing applications have dropped.
In Miss Stavrou’s case, the NMC panel heard from a ward sister at the hospital, who in a probation form from April 2016 said: “In general Eleni appears to have a reasonable command of English; however in our work setting her grasp of the language is inadequate. When she becomes stressed or agitated this become worse.”
However, in a letter to the NMC in June last year, Miss Stavrou said: ”Yes my English is not perfect by [sic] instead of raising this concern with me there and then again they had to go behind my back and write statements about it.”
The panel concluded Miss Stavrou – who did not attend the London hearing – did not have the necessary knowledge of English to practise safely and effectively.
She was suspended for 12 months.
NNUH director of nursing, Emma McKay, said: “As a trust, patient safety and service is key to everything we do, and it is vital that our staff are able to communicate effectively with fellow staff members and patients.
“We offer every support to staff who may need extra help with an aspect of their role, however occasionally there are cases where it is necessary to refer to the regulator for nursing and midwifery professions, the NMC.”