The Nursing and Midwifery Council has been the body which controls who can be employed in our healthcare system. It's policy is that new recruits must have worked at least 450 hours in the last three years or go to a refresher course. So, as long as they worked say 15 hours a week for 10 weeks, then they could return to work without requiring to spend money on updating their skills.
The NMC has now stopped administering the tests after being told it could be sued by the EC for breaking EU law on "freedom of movement' for workers from the Continent and now all they will need is a diploma from their country showing they are qualified.
In the past 5 years more than 40,000 nurses from the EU - including former Soviet Bloc countries such as Latvia, Lithuania and Slovakia - applied to work in Britain but just 270 completed the course, deterred by its cost and difficulty.
The changes will make the system almost identical to that in place for GPs coming from European countries, which allows them to cover out-of-hours shifts without tests on their skills or language abilities. Already around 2,000 nurses and midwives from the EU try to come to Britain to work every year.
With a little tuition and Photoshop, I'm sure I could produce quite a nifty looking Diploma - not that I'm suggesting any EU healthcare worker would ever consider such an action. But what about the human rights of the patients who pay into a system within which they expect to be treated by properly qualified personnel who can speak English well enough to understand their problems? Surely the patient has a right to expect that the NHS has fully checked out every employee. If an unqualified person slips through, which they will do, who is legally responsible - the local NHS authority or the EU? It will take a few deaths of course before we know the answers. Just ensure yours won't be one of them. Do we have a right to refuse to be treated by someone we consider doesn't have the language skills for two-way verbal understanding?
The House of Commons' Health Committee plans to investigate. Time they got on with it and called a halt to the continuing destruction of our healthcare system.