A bid by Medway hospital to fill nursing vacancies by recruiting Filipino workers has stalled, after 52 of 59 offered jobs by the trust failed an English language test.
The figures were released to the Medway Messenger under the Freedom of Information Act after the trust embarked on a recruitment drive in April with managers heading to Manila in the Philippines to interview would-be nurses.
The result was that 241 nurses were offered jobs, of which 202 accepted.
However, it has now emerged that the first 52 the trust was poised to take on have failed a tough new English language test and have been unable to take up their posts.
It follows the disclosure last month that close to 400 nursing jobs were vacant at Medway Maritime Hospital – almost a third of the workforce.
All non-EU nurses are now required to take a test set by the Nursing and Midwifery Council to ensure their language skills are good enough.
The International Language Testing System tests candidates in speaking, listening, reading and writing with qualification to work dependent on scoring seven out of nine in each section.
It was introduced to ensure that foreign nationals working in the public sector could speak a high standard of English.
But it has drawn criticism from health managers and nursing recruitment agencies, who say the standards expected are too high and should be relaxed.
Medway NHS Foundation Trust managers said they were confident that vacancies will, in time, be filled and that the bulk of those recruited from the Philippines are still “engaged in the process.”
James Devine, executive director for HR at the trust, acknowledged there were concerns about the test: “We are committed to employing the best of people at our hospital to provide the best of care to our patients.
“Our nurse recruitment plans continue to attract and recruit nurses from the UK, the EU and internationally and, as part of our own selection process, we ensure that candidates are able to communicate effectively with patients and each other.”
“We currently have a number of potential nurses either awaiting results, or in the process of undertaking these tests.
“Whilst not directly involved, we support efforts by health and professional bodies who are continuing the discussion on the most appropriate language standard for nurses in the context of high demand across the NHS for these staff.”
The trust is reducing reliance on agency workers and if temporary staff are required they are drawn from its own in-house agency, he added.
The requirement to pass a tough language test is thought to be behind a sharp drop in the number of nurses registering in the UK.