Nurse test centre doubles in size as UK aims to expand workforce
The revamped test centre will be able to process 22,000 OSCE competency tests each year in preparation for a potential increase in overseas nursing recruitment
Thousands more nurses hoping to join the UK register will be able to take a competency test at a national testing centre after it doubled in size.
OSCE test centre will be able to process 22,000 exams each year
The £2 million expansion of Northumbria University’s objective structured clinical examination (OSCE) testing centre is expected to deliver up to 22,000 exams per year to bring more nurses into the NHS.
The testing centre first opened in March 2022 for up to 7,000 candidates per year. By the end of 2022, it was delivering 45 OCSE exams per day, or about 12,000 tests per year.
The Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) asked the university to expand its current provision to offer more exams. A renovation of existing spaces has led to the test centre doubling in size from 15 to 30 testing bays, with each bay used to deliver three exams per day.
The university expects to offer the additional exams by the end of this year. Head of the centre Norman Franklin said: ‘We all know that the NHS workforce is under increasing strain and so we are delighted to be able to play a part in alleviating this pressure by significantly expanding the number of test places we are able to offer.’
Overseas staff and nurse returners are expected to pass the OSCE before joining register
The OSCE is a face-to-face exam that uses actors or simulation models to assess candidates’ ability to care for and communicate with patients. An updated version of the NMC Test of Competence was introduced in August 2021. All overseas-trained nurses and UK nurses returning after a career break are expected to pass the exam before they are allowed to work.
The NMC’s head of testing services Jack Bland said: ‘Internationally educated nursing and midwifery professionals make a vital contribution to people’s health and well-being in the UK. This expansion will ensure even more professionals join our register quickly and safely, so they can provide the high-quality care everyone has the right to expect.’
There are currently more than 43,000 nursing vacancies in the NHS in England, according to the latest data. The government’s first ever NHS long-term workforce plan pledges to recruit up to 190,000 nurses by 2037.
Latest NMC data show half of nurses and midwives who joined the UK register in the year to March 2023 were trained overseas. Some 25,006 new joiners were internationally educated, up 610% from five years ago when there were 3,522 international recruits.
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