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to think that doctors should speak English?

72 replies

Laquitar · 21/04/2011 20:54

I had to see a different doctor today and she was not speaking english. Well she did but very bad. Even i was Shock with her grammar fgs and my english grammar is bad.
We had to repeat everything 4-5 times, very hard to communicate.

I dont care if the taxi driver speaks english or not, ditto the dry cleaner, the store cashier etc. But can you trust the doctor when she doesn't speak english?

OP posts:
CristinaTheAstonishing · 21/04/2011 21:15

Bex "Passing an English language test is very different from using language in an everyday context" Read more about the test first. I think quite a few people on this board would struggle with it. The pass mark has been raised recently. It IS a fair comment, however, that you need to be able to communicate. Part of it is also if you have patience for the other side or not.

NellieForbush · 21/04/2011 21:16

Assuming you are in the Uk (or other English speaking country) then no YANBU.

worraliberty · 21/04/2011 21:16

When I was pregnant with my first child, I went for a scan and a check up. The Nurse was Malaysian and after the scan she told me I had a 'Blutter'.

I asked her 3 times what it meant and each time all she could tell me was that I had a Blutter and I needed it to be sorted out before I went home.

She then left the room for what seemed like ages and me and my DH were absolutely distraught thinking there was something wrong with me or the baby.

It wasn't until she returned with some forms that we realised she meant a 'Blood test'. It sounds funny now and I can look back and laugh but at the time, we were really quite terrified and I was near to tears Sad

naturalbaby · 21/04/2011 21:18

it's pretty vital for a doctor to have good communication skills imo - and communication works both ways. it's not just to do with accents though, there have been plenty of times i've left a gp appointment without really understanding what the advice was or what i was suppossed to do next.

CharlieCoCo · 21/04/2011 21:19

i had a problem when i registered with my last dr who was from a non english speaking country and hestruggled. he said to me how much portion of alcohol do you drink, i said portion of alcohol? he said yes how much portion and i realised he meant units of alcohol do i drink, but he was really heard to understand and i think he should know that its units not portions, especially when i said i dont know how many units i just know glasses, but then is he writing portions down as units or glasses of wine etcHmm

mercibucket · 21/04/2011 21:20

''If you are from outside the European Economic Area (EEA), you will need to demonstrate your English language capability'' - so does that mean if you are from within the EEA you don't need to demonstrate your English language capability?

CristinaTheAstonishing · 21/04/2011 21:21

Charlie - so even if he was speaking perfect English you would still have struggled because you don't know alcohol in units but in glasses. The point you make is one of jargon, I believe. Something you might have overlooked if he wasn't also a foreigner.

CristinaTheAstonishing · 21/04/2011 21:23

Merci - I think so, I don't think if you're German, French etc you need to pass the language test. I'm not very up-to-date with this, though.

Bex22 · 21/04/2011 21:24

Hello, just perused this test you mention and note that half is a written paper and of the half that is practical only 25% addresses communication skills (ie only an eighth of the whole qualification). I think that this is an area that is very hazy and, by omission of definitive criteria, would be easy to surpass even with some of the problems with accent that people have stated.

MaisyMooCow · 21/04/2011 21:28

OP, YANBU I have had a similar experience myself.

I think it's really important that someone in this profession should be able to communicate effectively with their patients. Therefore if we are going to employ doctors from other countries to fill the skills gap then we should be offering them the support they need to do their job effectively.

CristinaTheAstonishing · 21/04/2011 21:29

The written paper is understanding and communicating in English. Don't dismiss it. Doctors write a lot of letters to each other. What do you mean only 25% addresses communication skills?

Part of the test is a tape with people speaking in all sorts of accents and you have to listen and answer quite detailed questions. There's also a face-to-face component. It's tougher than you'd think. Ultimately, it won't be the same as living here but how would you improve on that?

mercibucket · 21/04/2011 21:35

tbh it seems quite pointless bothering with a language test at all if we're happy to accept people from anywhere within the EEA (now how is that different from the EU??) without any language test. either we want doctors who speak English or we're not bothered either way surely. I don't think many of us think 'well I usually like a doctor who speaks English, but seeing as he's from Portugal I'll make an exception'

Bex22 · 21/04/2011 21:35

Look, Cristina I can understand that as somebody clearly from the medical profession you feel defensive about this point, but I feel strongly that it is a valid opinion, and surely you can see from the evidence before you that it is a current issue in the Health Service. No one is making generalised criticisms of the whole NHS, and I think that people are saying that it is not a huge problem, but that it can be a significant one. I can see that something is being done to try and stop this, but the problem still exists. Perhaps some kind of oral test, in addition to the medical one, that is not linked specifically to a medical situation would test the applicant's ability to communicate in more depth. I'm not an expert, but you don't have to be an expert to see that the system is failing in some situations.

Laquitar · 21/04/2011 21:38

Oh so many replies. Sorry for delay in answering back.


Agent 21.01.59, that made me Grin, i knew someone was going to say it.

Shakey how can you quote something that is not there, you are 'quoting' a phrase i haven't said Hmm

Those who thought i'm bigot and i 'm attacking foreigners, i am foreigner my self (i think only Agent got it). But i am not a doctor , i don't take decisions about people's lives in 10 minutes. This was my point. No it wasn't her accent (although she did have a strong accent) it was like this: 'you-hand-broke, maybe you work next week maybe not. I don't know my dear. Me-no-much time-many people i must see. These pills stop pain maybe. Who knows my dear' Hmm How can i trust that she can read my notes correctly and how can i communicate with her in 10 minutes?

And no, she was not speaking like this because of my english - trying to come to my level etc Grin

OP posts:
JaneS · 21/04/2011 21:44

How is that unclear? It's not BBC English but it's not confusing either, is it?

Or is what bothered you that she sounded a bit blase about how well the medication would cope with the pain?


CristinaTheAstonishing · 21/04/2011 21:50

Bex22 - but I'm saying that there IS an oral test already. The pass mark has been raised only last year. I work with foreign doctors and I don't have any trouble understanding them. Sometimes I feel like speeding them up a bit, but then I feel the same about native patients sometimes...

Merci - yes, good point, being from a European country doesn't mean you automatically speak good enough English.

Laquitar · 21/04/2011 21:54

Well, yes she wouldn't give me any proper answer.
Also, i 'm not sure i trust her that she can read notes quickly or she doesn't missunderstand what i'm saying.

I'm the last person to be critical about language skills as i have struggled with english myself. But in some proffessions language is crucial imo.

OP posts:
JaneS · 21/04/2011 22:05

But what you quoted isn't unclear linguistically, so I don't see why you're attacking her ability to speak English. If you'd complained it was annoying that the doctor couldn't give you a more precise answer about how long it'd take to heal/how well the pain medication would work, I would understand more (though I suspect the answer would always be 'it varies', wouldn't it?).

Laquitar · 21/04/2011 22:13

But LittleRed if a doctor cant form a proper sentence in english or cant understand a basic sentence makes you wonder how reliable her judgement is.

OP posts:
JaneS · 21/04/2011 22:30

I don't see how you know she doesn't understand a basic sentence? And what you quoted only shows she didn't speak BBC English, not that she can't communicate clearly.

I'm just wondering if she didn't choose to speak colloquially because she thought you, or her patients in general, would prefer it. She may be wrong, but it's a bit strong to start judging her ability to speak English imo.

Aiieyaayaii · 21/04/2011 22:32

Anyone in a new country should learn the local lingo, its what's expected.

Aiieyaayaii · 21/04/2011 22:34

And a doctor would of more or less practiced in English. Maybe you just don't have alot of Foreign friends?

stealthcat · 21/04/2011 22:39

"tbh it seems quite pointless bothering with a language test at all if we're happy to accept people from anywhere within the EEA (now how is that different from the EU??) without any language test. "

It doesnt mean that - it means that if someone is from the EEA the GMC have no power to impose a language test.

CremeEggMcFlurry · 21/04/2011 22:40

The surgery I'm registered at is great but there is one doctor who is Nigerian. He seems very nice, is welcoming as you walk into his room but once you get talking about anything serious I really struggle to understand what he says. I don't mean that his language is just grammatically poor or broken English, I mean I had no idea what he was saying.

As bad as I feel about it, I now ask for another doctor if they give me an appointment with him. It makes me feel like such an awful, intolerant person but after a few appointments where I have come out totally confused as to what was said and what will happen next (referrals, tests) I just don't want to see him when I could see someone else.

FWIW three of the others doctors at the surgery have English as an additional language and I don't have the same problem with them and am happy to see them (and grateful for the NHS!).

Asinine · 21/04/2011 22:48

Good communication is an essential part of a consultation. It is entirely possible, and common for English speaking doctors to be appalling at speaking to patients. When I worked in hospitals I frequently needed my colleagues from overseas to help me communicate with patients from overseas who couldn't speak English. In some areas and specialities this was around a third of admissions.
It would actually be very practical for English speaking doctors to learn some other languages too.
I worked abroad as a student speaking a foreign language in hospitals. I was rubbish at first, but quickly improved.
Many foreign doctors will take time to improve their English.
If a you have a complaint about a doctor for whatever reason, there are proper channels for this.

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