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Government drops its language test requirement for overseas nurses

Change is intended to make it as easy as possible for health professionals to come to the UK

Change is intended to make it as easy as possible for health professionals to come to the UK


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Overseas nurses will now only need to pass one language test to work in the UK, instead of two.

The government announced it will scrap its language test for nurses from 1 October, meaning those who want to work in the UK will only have to meet the Nursing and Midwifery Council’s (NMC) language requirements.

NMC exam requirement remains unchanged

Currently, nurses must sit two English language tests – one for the NMC and one for the UK Visas and Immigration service.

The NMC accepts either the International English Language Test System or the Occupational English Test.

Announcing the change, the government said its exams were unnecessary as those required by the nursing regulator have a higher pass threshold. It said the change means GP practices, hospitals and nursing homes will be able to access staff more quickly.  

The changes will also apply to doctors, dentists and midwives.

Health professionals who want to settle in the UK will still be required to undertake a language skills test if they apply for citizenship, the government said.

Making it easy for health professionals to come to the UK

Immigration minister Seema Kennedy said the government wanted to make it as easy as possible for health professionals to come to the UK.

‘Overseas doctors, dentists, nurses and midwives are an integral part of our national health service, our social care sector and our local communities,’ she said.

NMC director of registration and revalidation Emma Broadbent welcomed the change. ‘This measure also chimes well with the NMC’s continued efforts to streamline the way overseas registrants join our register,’ she said.

An RCN spokesperson described it is a positive step ‘at a time when our nursing workforce is desperately short of the numbers needed to deliver care to growing numbers of patients with increasing needs’.


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