NHS trust in London accused of being 'colonial' for guidelines telling staff to speak ENGLISH

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NHS trust in London is accused of being ‘colonial’ for its guidelines that tell staff to speak ENGLISH on wards

  • NHS guidance tell workers to ‘only communicate in England’ around others
  • Guidance sparked social media fury among medics who say it is ‘utter nonsense’
  • The trust said staff are expected to speak English to ensure inclusivity and safety

An NHS trust was today forced to defend itself for telling staff to speak English on wards following an outcry over its guidelines.

Homerton University Hospital Foundation Trust, in London, says workers shouldn’t speak any other language in front of patients and colleagues.

The guidance was first published on its website in 2019, but began to gain traction among medics on social media yesterday. 

Commentators argued that it was ‘worded terribly’, calling it ‘utter nonsense’ and a ‘hugely colonial approach’. 

In response to the backlash, a spokesperson for the Hackney-based trust said it is working with staff and patients to review its values.

But they confirmed that the organisation’s 1.4million staff in England are expected to speak in English in the hospital.

A document from Homerton University Hospital Foundation Trust (pictured), which is based in Hackney, outlines medics cannot speak any other language than English in front of patients and colleagues

A document from Homerton University Hospital Foundation Trust (pictured), which is based in Hackney, outlines medics cannot speak any other language than English in front of patients and colleagues 

The document, titled 'Living our Values', was produced in January 2014 and republished on its website in April 2019. A 'personal commitment' section states 'I will only communicate in English in the presence of others'

The document, titled ‘Living our Values’, was produced in January 2014 and republished on its website in April 2019. A ‘personal commitment’ section states ‘I will only communicate in English in the presence of others’

Professor Partha Kar, NHS England national advisor on racial equality in the workforce, tweeted a picture of a sign stating that only English can be spoken in hospital wards and kitchens and 'disciplinary action will be taken against staff who do not comply' (pictured). But Homerton University Hospital NHS Foundation Trust said it investigated the poster 'and cannot find any evidence that it is or was ever present on our property'

Professor Partha Kar, NHS England national advisor on racial equality in the workforce, tweeted a picture of a sign stating that only English can be spoken in hospital wards and kitchens and ‘disciplinary action will be taken against staff who do not comply’ (pictured). But Homerton University Hospital NHS Foundation Trust said it investigated the poster ‘and cannot find any evidence that it is or was ever present on our property’

The spokesperson said: ‘We ask staff to communicate in English in the presence of others.

WHAT DID THE GUIDELINES STATE? 

A personal commitment to live the Values I will…. 

• treat others as I would expect to be treated 

• introduce myself and explain my role, and the care I am about to provide 

• respect the expertise of patients, service users and colleagues • take time to listen and understand other people’s views 

• be aware of, and take responsibility for, how my behaviour and communication style affects other people 

• only communicate in English in the presence of others 

• challenge others if I experience behaviour that is not respectful 

• help and support my colleagues so that we work well together to achieve our team goals 

• recognise that people are different and adopt a non-judgemental approach 

• value other people’s time by making sure I am punctual, professional and deliver on the commitments I make

‘This is to ensure that we are inclusive of everyone and in many situations to ensure safety and clarity.

‘Our commitment is part of respecting other colleagues and patients by including them in conversations taking place in the workplace.’

The trust’s document, titled ‘Living our Values’, was produced in January 2014 and republished on its website in April 2019.

A ‘personal commitment’ section states ‘I will only communicate in English in the presence of others’.

It is one of more than 50 commitments set out to ‘promote inclusion and respect’, including helping and supporting colleagues, treating others as they expect to be treated and adopting a non-judgmental approach.

Professor Partha Kar, an NHS England national advisor on racial equality, said medics cannot be mandated to speak in English or disciplined for communicating in another language. 

He tweeted that he is unaware of ‘any NHS England diktat’ suggesting staff ‘must all only speak in English to uphold NHS values’. 

He said that it is ‘utter nonsense’ to say you cannot speak a certain language in the workplace or that doing so ‘upsets values’.

Professor Kar also tweeted a picture of a sign stating that only English can be spoken in hospital wards and kitchens and ‘disciplinary action will be taken against staff who do not comply’. 

But Homerton University Hospital Foundation Trust said it ‘cannot find any evidence that it is or was ever present on our property’. 

Professor Tom Marshall, a public health and primary care expert at the University of Birmingham, said ‘unless there’s good reason’ the guidance ‘may be illegal’.

And Twitter user Dr Ruby said it is a ‘hugely colonial approach to tell people to only speak English.’ 

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