Foreign doctors must meet Danish language standards: minister

The Local Denmark
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Foreign doctors must meet Danish language standards: minister
File photo: Lars Helsinghof Bæk/Ritzau Scanpix

Denmark’s health minister Ellen Trane Nørby is to table a bill which would require regional health authorities to ensure Danish language competency when hiring foreign doctors.


Health authorities in Denmark’s five administrative healthcare regions would be responsible for ensuring employed foreign nationals, including EU citizens, have appropriate language skills, the Ministry of Health wrote in a press statement.

“There must be no doubt that foreign doctors must speak Danish,” Minister of Health Ellen Trane Nørby said in a press statement released on Monday.

“Patients must be able to understand their doctor, the doctor must understand the patient, and the doctor must be able to communicate clearly with colleagues,” Nørby added.

Stricter demands should be placed on the level of Danish proficiency of doctors from other EU countries due to a number of instances of medics having been hired without being about to speak sufficient Danish, according to the ministry press release.

Under current rules, doctors from non-EU countries are required to pass the Prøve i dansk 3 (Danish Level 3) examination used by national language centres in order to be eligible for authorisation to practice medicine in Denmark. No language requirement laws apply to doctors from EU countries.

Citizens of EU countries do not normally need to fulfil language requirements to be permitted to work in Denmark.

“We have many excellent foreign doctors in Denmark. But, unfortunately, we also have some doctors who quite simply have not mastered the Danish language well enough,” Nørby said.

“Although the rules are clear, we can see that regions do not take sufficient responsibility for making sure doctors have the correct language proficiency,” she added.

The bill, which will be submitted for the initial reading stage, will place “the responsibility of employers in black and white in the healthcare law,” the minister said.

Language tests and other methods for ascertaining the language skills of medical professionals will be allowed under the reinforced rules.

Should doctors’ Danish proficiency not be deemed good enough, they should either not be hired or let go after a trial period, Nørby said, adding that “language is competency which is just as important as the medical side.”

The rules provided for by the bill would apply to doctors qualified in both EU and non-EU countries, the ministry press message states. 

On Monday, the Danish Medical Association (Lægeforeningen, DMA) called for doctors qualified in EU countries to pass Danish language tests before being hired in Denmark.

“The same language requirements should be apply to doctors from EU countries as those applied to doctors from all other countries,” DMA’s chairperson Andreas Rudkjøbing told DR Nyheder.

READ ALSO: Denmark introduces interpreter charge at hospitals


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