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July 21 2002
A surgeon at a leading hospital has said he had to stop halfway through an operation because foreign nurses could not follow his instructions. As a result, he said he has been threatened with disciplinary action for racism.David Nunn, a consultant orthopaedic surgeon at Guy's and St Thomas's Hospitals, in London, told The Telegraph that he was unable to complete the operation last week without certain instruments. When he asked the nurses, all of whom were foreign, to find them, "I was met with a selection of bemused reactions," he said. "They were produced only when the scrub nurse de-scrubbed and went to find them herself."Mr Dunn, 48, said his superiors had accused him of racism and threatened him with being disciplined. "But we should not allow political correctness to prevent these problems from being aired."Half of the nurses newly registered in the year to March - 15,000 - came from overseas. Ten years ago foreign nurses accounted for only a tenth.Mr Dunn said: "The world has been scoured for nurses to shore up the health service and to achieve arbitrary targets set by the Government."All are without doubt well-trained and dedicated professionals, but if medical staff cannot communicate effectively then patients' care may be put at risk."
All hospitals offer induction courses for nurses from abroad, but these concentrate on clinical and professional competence, not on English.A Department of Health spokesman said there were no mandatory tests for nurses' ability in English.