Richard North, 01/11/2005  

A story to make your blood boil comes today from the New Zealand Herald, headed "English test makes NZ nurses sick".

The paper informs us that New Zealand nurses who want to work in Britain now face new hurdles, including having to pass an English language test. And, even though their training is equivalent to the UK regime, they must also complete a 20-day training programme of supervised practice.

The point, of course, is that these new rules apply to all nurses from outside the European Union, but anyone from within the EU, with the requisite qualifications in their own countries – even if they are from non-English speaking states - can apply for work in the UK, and their language skills are not tested.

To require citizens from member states to demonstrate their language skills, or undergo additional testing, would breach the "non-discrimination" rules of the treaties.

For NZ nurses, there is the additional problem that places on the mandatory 20-day courses were in short supply. Says the Herald, about 400 New Zealand nurses go to Britain each year to work and the changes are already deterring some. "It is causing people to reconsider their travel to the UK," says Josephine Wallis, chief executive of recruiting company Geneva Health International.

Associate Professor Judy Kilpatrick, of the Auckland University School of Nursing, said it was "ridiculous" to make New Zealanders pass an English language test.

It is, in fact, more than "ridiculous". It is deeply offensive. Under EU rules, we are required to make our kith and kin – native English-speakers – jump through hoops when someone from, say, Greece, Italy or Spain, with no English and no knowledge of our culture, can walk right in.

We met a similar crass stupidity in 1992 when the EU meat hygiene rules came fully into force, requiring qualified veterinary surgeons to supervise red meat and poultry slaughterhouses while they were operating – at enormous expense. With UK-trained vets in short supply – and unwilling to do slaughterhouse work - we were deluged with young Spanish vets, straight out of training, many of whom could barely speak a word of English (or tell a turkey from a chicken).

I remember one, a young female, who found her first day at a slaughterhouse so difficult that she retreated to the car park and spent the rest of the day, and every day thereafter, sitting in her car reading books – with charges of £60 per hour being levied on the slaughterhouse for her "services".

God, how I loath and detest the European Union, this mad, destructive organisation that forces us to do such utterly stupid things.


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