An NHS midwife born in Poland has been suspended after her bosses discovered she had not delivered a single baby because she could barely understand English.
Barbara Fall, 35, has been suspended for 12 months to protect mothers and babies from a ‘real risk of harm’ in what has been branded a ‘colossal waste of taxpayers’ money’ by MPs.
She has not been struck off the nursing register but she will have to take a language test in a year, before she can return to work.
Midwife Barbara Fall has been suspended from nursing until she learns English (Picture: Ben Lack Photography)
Mrs Fall was demoted at Burnley General Teaching Hospital after her colleagues realised she could not grasp what they were saying.
She resigned and took her former bosses to a tribunal which held her case in Polish..
But she lost her claim for constructive dismissal and was instead suspended from practicing after her case was reported to the Nursing and Midwifery Council.
The hearing, chaired by Hilary Nightingale, gave her a 12-month suspension to give her time to improve her English and retake a language test.
Philip Davies, Tory MP for Shipley, West Yorkshire, said: ‘It is a complete farce. She was demoted at Burnley General Teaching Hospital before she quit (Picture: Google) ‘The fact the tribunal hearing had to be conducted in Polish says everything about the case. ‘It has been a colossal waste of taxpayers’ money and shows how crucial it is to have a robust English language test. Anyone who cannot pass it should not be working in the NHS.’
Fellow Tory MP Andrew Bridgen, said people working in the NHS should pass an English test before they are given any further training. ‘It’s just common sense,’ he said. ‘It has been a complete waste of public money all the way along, including the tribunal.
Translators are not cheap. This could all have been avoided.’
When Mrs Fall first registered to work in the UK, the International English Language Testing System for nurses did not apply to EU nationals.
When Mrs Fall first registered to work in the UK, the International English Language Testing System for nurses did not apply to EU nationals (Picture: Getty)
When she finally sat the test in January this year, her understanding of English was rated only four out of 10.
She scored five in reading and writing and had an overall score of 5.5. The minimum required is seven – which she only achieved in spoken English, an NMC disciplinary panel was told.
Ms Nightingale said: ‘The panel noted that Mrs Fall has accepted that her level of English does not meet the required standard and had demonstrated some insight. ‘However, the panel has seen no evidence that she is currently undertaking any courses in English language or making any continued efforts to improve her level of English. ‘The panel was of the view that patients would be at a real risk of harm should Mrs Fall be allowed to practice without having the necessary knowledge of English. ‘It therefore decided that a finding of impairment is necessary on the ground of public protection.’
The midwife started working for East Lancashire Hospitals NHS Trust in June 2016. She was employed as a Band 3 maternity support worker, on £18,000 a year, until January 2017 when she began a preceptorship – a monitored period of transition for all newly qualified staff – as a Band 5 midwife, with a £22,000 salary. MORE: UK Man, 20, arrested on suspicion of murder as hunt for missing student continues She was demoted back to Band 3 in October that year, due to ‘performance issues’ and quit in November 2017. The panel stated in its judgment that a striking off order would be ‘disproportionate’. East Lancashire Hospitals NHS Trust executive director of nursing Chris Pearson said: ‘Patient safety is, and always will be, our priority. ‘A good command of the English language is essential for safe, personal and effective care.