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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:
Hatesponge · 21/04/2011 22:48

I think anyone who has to deal with the general public in the UK should have a reasonable standard of spoken English ie to be able to speak clearly and coherently, and with a good degree of fluency. In the medical profession this is vital surely, because life or death situations can potentially be involved?

At my GP surgery, there are a number of doctors of various nationalities (both EU and non EU) none of whom have English as a first language. I generally find it difficult to understand what they are saying, and end up having to repeat what they're telling me to be sure I've got it right. Not ideal.

lesley33 · 22/04/2011 01:02

YANBU When I went into hospital for an operation, the nurse doing the pre op assessment could speak conversational english okay, but didn't know the english words for standard medical terms. For example, she didn't know what athlete's foot is (it was relevant) or eczema.

lesley33 · 22/04/2011 01:06

Also accompanied a relative to an emeergency consultation with a psychiatrist. His accent was so strong that he was very very hard to understand. I had to keep asking him to repeat himself and by the end her seemed pretty annoyed with this.

onceamai · 22/04/2011 07:00

I think it's all been said. I don't think it's in the least unreasonable to expect a doctor to be able to communicate effectively during a consultation, the essence being communicate. I lost count of the number of white British midwives I encountered when pregnant who appeared completely incapable of listening and then recording the correct information in my records or requesting the correct blood tests due to an underlying medical condition. Birth records are portable and it rather made me wonder how much incorrect information is recorded on records we don't see.

lambethlil · 22/04/2011 07:17

The key here is communication. At a scan for DD1 the Dr was flustered and kept saying 'I can't hear anything, its dead, sorry its dead.'

He meant the microphone thingy.Hmm

He was white and English, I've had no other problems with other HCP; perhaps like me when I'm not speaking my mother tongue they think MORE carefully about what they're saying.

Bucharest · 22/04/2011 07:27

"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."

So a doctor who can't speak perfect English might not be a good doctor? Nope. Does not compute.

What you say she said,about your hand, is perfectly understandable. As was her judgement that it might be better next week, it might not. (I don't recall magical powers of prophecy being in the job description for medics)

In the UK I have never had a UK born doctor. They've all had strong accents yes, but none as strong as the Belfast student I shared a flat with in the 80s in Spain. I used to prefer it when we spoke Spanish tbh. Lovely accent, but I understood nada.

heather1980 · 22/04/2011 07:33

i work in pharmacy and deal with lots of drs across many different surgeries. there is one gp who is egyptian who i hate dealing with, i just cannot understand him at all, it's made 10 times worse because 99% i'm dealing with him on the phone and cannot see his face.
i work with a pharmacist who is from the yemen. when I first started working with her i did struggle to understand her accent, but i'm used to it now and it's only the odd word i don't get.
i do think that what ever part of the world you are from you should have a good grasp of the language and be able to make yourself understood, drs sometimes hold peoples lives in their hands and if you cannot understand them how else are you supposed to know about what treatment to expect or tests you need?

CristinaTheAstonishing · 22/04/2011 07:59

"you should have a good grasp of the language and be able to make yourself " I think we all agree with that. But it is very difficult to get rid of an accent. You can go on courses, they are usually expensive, in central London, for actors etc. Plus some people find it easier than others to take on a different accent.

I was left an answerphone message recently by someone with a very strong Scottish accent. I didn't return the call because I didn't understand what he said. I've been here for 15 years, working, communicating, watching TV etc. I had no clue what he was on about. He phoned later, turns out he'd moved from Glasgow to East Anglia about 20 years ago but he'd still kept his accent. (He wasn't a doctor, just making a point about accents.)

heather1980 · 22/04/2011 08:09

i also work with a scottish lady and come of our patients don't like speaking to her either as she too can be difficult to understand.
my gp is swedish and he has the most beautiful accent (and face Blush )
i could listen to him all day!
i think the main point is dealing with people whos 2nd language is english and making themselves understood.

lesley33 · 22/04/2011 09:16

Yes people UK born can have strong accents that are difficult to understand. But I have NEVER met anyone like this who is a nurse or Dr/Consultant. I don't know if this is because anyone like this would be advised at medical school to tone down their accent?

But there is no point posting about random people you have met who are UK born and difficult to understand. Unless they are a Dr or nurse then it is totally irrelevant to this discussion.

And yes I have struggled to understand anything said by a distant relative with a very strong Glasgow accent. But visiting my Aunt in a Glasgow hospital over 6 weeks when she was dying, I easily understood every single worker I came into contact with.

ohanotherone · 22/04/2011 12:10

Anyone in the Health Service. At Chelsea & Westminster Hospital there were several Health Care Assistants who couldn't speak English properly and a cleaner who couldn't speak a word. One day a doctor came and wanted to examine me and the cleaner wouldn't move and when I resorted to a polite gesture to try and communicate she hissed at me. Others left food at the end of the bed even if I asked them to bring it nearer. It was disgraceful that C&W employ people without any ability to speak english. It shouldn't happen at all.

SouthGoingZax · 22/04/2011 12:19

When I went not the local gynae ward with first an ectopic and later a missed mc, the doctor there was really, really hard to understand. The main problem (which was sorted once we realised what she was saying) was that she called a womb an 'om'. I had no idea what she was talking about for AGES - when she was talking through the mmc procedure, I was properly confused.
I think it is important that communication is clear.

CristinaTheAstonishing · 22/04/2011 13:16

Lighten up, Lesley. Discussions tend to go on tangents. And if someone mentions accents then I think it IS relevant to say how difficult it is to lose it and to give an example. I do hope you've taught your own children foreign languages early. Leave it past the age of 6 and they'll never speak like a native.

CristinaTheAstonishing · 22/04/2011 13:20

ohanotherone - see the decision above "Unless they are a Dr or nurse then it is totally irrelevant to this discussion". FWIW I agree people should speak English. I disagree that it has to be done in a certain way, with a certain accent.

NearlySpring · 22/04/2011 13:39

I speak to different doctors every day as part of my job. I often find it hard to understand what they are saying due to them having either strong accents or not having a great grasp of the English language.

Same goes for many social workers, nurses, mental health professionals etc. It's hard enough for me to decipher what they are saying and I am used to dealing with difficult to understand people, imagine how hard it must be for the patients!

It's dangerous when patients can't communicate effectively with a health care professional. We provide interpreters for patients who have English as a second lanaguage to ensure they receive the correct information as even those with a fairly good grasp of the language may struggle to understand in depth medical terminology or self care instructions.

whatsallthehullaballoo · 22/04/2011 13:43

YANBU - I had to tale my daughter to see an ENT specialist - I had no idea when I cam eout of the consultation room if my daughter needed surgery or not..I kept asking him to repeat and the nurse whispered to me "I will explain outside". So outside the nurse said what information she had but then I couldn't ask questions because the consultation had ended. Very frustrating. A lovely doctor though.

I have also had the same issue with dentists...

ilovecrisps · 22/04/2011 14:29

can be a real problem
I gather the GMC doesn't especially like the fact that they can't bring in an English language test for EU docs but the EU wont let them (free movement of labour or something)

my poor uncle was once very ill in a world famous UK teaching hospital he needed regular suctioning or he would choke etc etc
once two nurses came up stood on either side of the bed started talking to each other in their native language suctioned him and faffed about for a bit doing whatever, talking over him all the time then just walked off

not one word to him
made me feel really sad for him
talk about being treated like a piece of meat

CurrySpice · 22/04/2011 14:32

Don't know if anyone has said this but you don't have to pass an English test if you are from within the EU because European Law doesn't allow it

There is a case of a German doctor who misadministered a drug on his first day in the UK a few years back causing the death of a man

ilovecrisps · 22/04/2011 14:34

x posts curry

lesley33 · 22/04/2011 14:35

Cristina - My point is that anyone who becomes a Dr or nurse needs to be able to communicate well with patients. If their patients can't understand them, then it doesn't matter where they were born, they shouldn't be doing the job.

The psychiatrist that I accompanied a relative to on an emergency appointment needed to be able to make himself understood to my relative and I. When asking questions of relatives/patients in psychiatrity, nuances are important. The psychiatrist was very very difficult to understand and was visibly getting impatient as we asked him to repeat things again. Not the best basis for this type of appointment.

And it may be difficult to tone down a strong accent, but I really don't care about that. I want to see a Dr/nurse who understands me and who I can understand. If that means someone isn't given a job who might be UK or EEC born, then thats fine.

BakeliteBelle · 22/04/2011 15:20

YANBU. Of course good English, clearly spoken and easily understood, is an essential in health care and medicine. How could anyone argue with that?

Laquitar · 23/04/2011 10:15

sorry for disapearing, i had very bad day. I 've read the rest of the responses and thank you all for your opinions.

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