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Bury St Edmunds: West Suffolk Hospital defends £3,000 bill to improve language

PUBLISHED: 14:39 03 April 2014

Archant

West Suffolk Hospital has spent almost £3,000 on improving its staff’s English according to new figures, as the cost of running a multinational health service continues to soar.

Cooks, porters and admin staff were among those given the English language lessons at the hospital, which has racked up a £2,960 bill over three years.

Last month the EADT revealed that West Suffolk has spent almost £270,000 over the same period of time on translation and interpreter costs, while campaigners questioned why foreign workers were filling seemingly menial posts.

But a spokeswoman for the hospital defended it as a “good investment” having had 82 different members of staff pass through the course in recent times.

She added: “Over the last three years, we have spent an average of less than £1,000 a year on English language classes for staff, which represents a tiny proportion of our annual budget of around £170m.

“We view this as a good investment as it ensures staff can converse effectively, in turn ensuring our patients have a good experience when using the hospital.”

While medical staff made up the bulk of those that took the course, 31 were employed in support roles such as administration, catering and estates. Other staff signed up to the course included porters and cleaners.

Jonathan Isaby, chief executive of the TaxPayers’ Alliance, said: “It’s time health chiefs look at why people from the UK are not filling those roles.”

All clinical staff qualified to practice in the UK must have passed a nationally recognised English exam, while anyone undertaking an apprenticeship or foundation degree at the hospital must study English Functional Skills to a GCSE-equivalent level.

Forty of the 82 staff members that took the course were British.

Filipino, Lithuanian and Vietnamese staff also took the course between the 2010/11 and 2012/13 financial years.

Between 2011 and 2013, the hospital spent £264,800 on translation costs. However, the bill had dropped to £69,000 last year, having been close to £100,000 in the previous two years.

The EADT this week revealed that the hospital’s future financial viability had been questioned by both the West Suffolk Clinical Commissioning Group and health watchdog Monitor unless pressure could be eased on its services.

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