Denmark to relax language requirements for foreign nurses to boost hospital staff

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Denmark to relax language requirements for foreign nurses to boost hospital staff
Rigshospitalet in Copenhagen. Denmark's health ministry on Thursday announced measures it says will make the process towards working in Denmark smoother for foreign health personnel. File photo: Mads Claus Rasmussen/Ritzau Scanpix

Denmark will streamline language requirements for nurses from outside the EU and attempt to cut processing times for authorisation of foreign medical qualifications in a bid to improve hospital care, the health ministry announced on Thursday.


Danish language requirements used when recruiting nurses from outside the EU will be relaxed as part of measures aimed at reducing hospital waiting times, the government said as it presented a new spending plan on Thursday.

Additional funding will meanwhile be spent in an effort to reduce processing times for foreign medical professionals awaiting authorisation to work in Denmark.


The government and Danske Regioner, the national body which represents the regional health authorities, have agreed on a number of measures aimed at cutting waiting times in a new plan for the health service.

A key feature of the agreement is a reform to language requirements used when hiring foreign nurses.

The change to the requirements will mean that they will become more streamlined and unified than they are currently, the ministry said.

Language criteria for nurses from non-EU countries will thereby be brought into line with the requirements used for nurses from EU and EEA countries.

This means that it will not be a legal requirement for non-EU nationals to pass a Danish language test before they are employed on a probationary basis, termed evalueringsansættelse in Danish.

This type of probationary employment means the nurse is hired for an initial six months on a full-time basis. During that period, the hospital can assess the employee’s abilities and communication skills. 


“It will still be ensured that health personnel have Danish language skills at the requisite level with respect to patient safety and more,” the ministry said.

The agreement also pledges to form a “Task Force” which will “present suggestions for a smooth and efficient process to ensure that the requested foreign health staff can quickly take part in health service tasks,” the ministry said in an outline of the agreement.

The task force will include representation from regional health authorities and municipalities and will provide its recommendations “by the summer holiday”, it said.

An additional 5 million kroner in 2023 and 9.7 million kroner in 2024 has been set aside for the Danish Agency for International Recruitment and Integration (SIRI), the agency which processes work permit applications, to reduce a bottleneck in pending applications from third-country health staff waiting for their qualifications to be authorised for work in Denmark, and thereby given work permits.

READ ALSO: Why does Denmark take so long to authorise foreign medical professionals?

The overall objective of the new plan is three-fold, Health Minister Sophie Løhde said at a briefing on Thursday.

'Danish hospitals in a difficult situation'

These are a reduction of waiting lists, a three percent increase in the number of operations and medical examination and investigations for patients at pre-pandemic standards.

“Many of our hospitals are in a difficult situation and we need to get them back on track so patients can get treatment sooner and we ease the strain on health staff,” Løhde said in a press statement.

The agreement, which budgets two billion kroner of government spending on the health service in 2023 and 2024, also includes previsions to limit administrative work and partially extends the so-called frit sygehusvalg, the right for patients to choose the hospital at which they will be treated or examined.

It also asks more hospital staff to take evening, night and weekend shifts.

“We have made a very good agreement which will help bring down waiting times for patients. We will continue to work for a fair distribution of shifts among staff,” the head of Danske Regioner, Anders Kühnau, said according to news wire Ritzau.

“It’s also positive that it will be easier to hire foreign personnel with the skills that are needed most,” he said.

Earlier this month, the government reached an agreement for private hospitals to treat more patients on behalf of the public health system.


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