An Oxford hospital with more than 70 nationalities among its staff has had to offer lessons in basic English language.
The government-funded English lessons are intended to help staff at Oxford Radcliffe Hospitals Trust communicate with patients.
But Patient Voice, a group lobbying for patients’ rights, is concerned that the courses are optional, rather than compulsory.
Representative Jacquie Pearce-Gervais said staff had been unable to understand phrases such as ‘nil by mouth’ or ‘doing the rounds’.
She said: “It should be made compulsory for people who do not speak English as a first language to pass a test before they are allowed contact with a patient.”
A spokesman for the hospital said verbal communication skills are assessed at interview, the Telegraph has reported.
But although foreign doctors must pass an English test set by the Professional and Linguistic Assessments Board, no such formal requirement exists for other staff.