St John’s Burmese doctors fail test in English

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TWO Burmese doctors who were supposed to plug vital staffing gaps in children’s wards have seen their job offers withdrawn – because they could not pass an English test.

The pair, who were interviewed over an internet link in March, had been offered roles at the paediatric ward at St John’s Hospital in Livingston, which has been threatened with a downgrade due to a workforce crisis.

The clinical fellows were earmarked to work night shifts, following the withdrawal of trainees at the hospital and after the NHS was forced to pay consultants bumper triple-time rates of £1800 per night to cover out-of-hours shifts.

But it today emerged that NHS Lothian, which has spent most of this year attempting to overcome complex hurdles to bring the clinicians to the UK, had been forced to withdraw the offers. The doctors failed to demonstrate an “acceptable level of proficiency in the English language” under a test administered by the British Council – a requirement to register with the General Medical Council (GMC).

Two other Burmese children’s doctors who were offered jobs passed the exam – although their arrival has been delayed due to work 
permit issues. Senior MSP and Scottish Conservative chief whip John Lamont said it was “embarrassing” that two key posts were going unfilled due to “what appears to be a pretty basic error”.

NHS Lothian will now advertise for two speciality doctors in paediatrics following the setback, but admitted that finding trained staff had proved “difficult” in the past.

Gordon Beurskens, of the Action to Save St John’s Party, described the episode as “just another NHS Lothian fiasco”.

Dr David Farquharson, NHS Lothian’s medical director, said: “While all four candidates demonstrated a good grasp of the English language during the interview process, GMC registration requires applicants to demonstrate proficiency in reading, writing, listening to and speaking English.

“One of the successful applicants started this month and the other is expected to start in December or January.”