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NEWCOMER nurse who put patients’ lives at risk because her English was so poor she couldn’t answer 999 operator’s questions is allowed to carry on working

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A Romanian nurse who put patients’ lives at risk because her English was so poor she couldn’t answer simple questions has been permitted to carry on working.

Rodica Olteanu, 34, wasted crucial time as she struggled to communicate with a 999 operator when a patient was taken seriously ill.

A misconduct hearing was told Ms Olteanu was allowed to work at an NHS hospital despite not having the ‘necessary knowledge of English to practise safely’.

Her poor grasp of the language was first noted while working at a nursing home when a resident became ill and needed immediate medical attention.

Nurse Rodica Olteanu, 34, failed to answer questions in English to a 999 operator when a patient was taken seriously ill

Nurse Rodica Olteanu, 34, failed to answer questions in English to a 999 operator when a patient was taken seriously ill

Ms Olteanu was allowed to work at the University Hospital of North Midlands Trust (pictured) in Stoke-on-Trent, Staffordshire despite not having the 'necessary knowledge of English to practise safely'

Ms Olteanu was allowed to work at the University Hospital of North Midlands Trust (pictured) in Stoke-on-Trent, Staffordshire despite not having the ‘necessary knowledge of English to practise safely’

In March last year Olteanu was unable to answer a 999 call handler’s questions – and needed help from colleagues before confirming the patient’s life was at ‘immediate risk’.

Care workers without medical qualifications were forced to take over the phone call at Ty Gwynno nursing home in Pontypridd, South Wales, and the patient was later successfully treated at hospital.

Olteanu was ordered to undertake a paid-for International English Language Test System.

But she refused to attend, claiming she couldn’t get time off after starting a new job.

Olteanu was ordered to undertake a paid-for International English Language Test System

Olteanu was ordered to undertake a paid-for International English Language Test System

She then got a job as a nurse at the University Hospital of North Midlands Trust in Stoke-on-Trent, Staffordshire – but concerns were again raised about her language skills.

An internal assessment at the hospital gave her an English and mathematics score expected from that of a child aged nine to 11-years-old.

The hearing was told she was removed from ward duties and no longer works for the Trust.

The hearing was told Olteanu – who did not attend her hearing – does not accept her English is below standard, saying no concerns had been raised before the 999 call.

In a written statement, she said: ‘I do not deny that I am of another nationality, and I agree that my conversation level is not so high as of the British citizens because English is not my native language.

‘However, I can not agree that I do not understand or can not have a conversation in English, because until this incident no one had any complaints or concerns about how to communicate or understand English language, or the manner of delivery of medical care provided by me.’

David Newman, chair of the NMC panel sitting in Cardiff, said it was ‘more than likely’ Olteanu’s lack of English ‘could place the public at risk of harm’.

He said: ‘In the panel’s view, a registered nurse should be able to demonstrate more than a basic command of the language in order to practise safely and effectively.’

Mr Newman said the public would ‘remain at risk of harm’ if Olteanu were to return to nursing in the UK, but decided against suspending her registration as it would be ‘disproportionate’.