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NMC to launch consultation on relaxing English language tests

Regulator’s move follows concern qualified overseas-trained nurses are being prevented from practising in the UK amid widespread nursing shortages

Regulator’s move follows concern qualified overseas-trained nurses are being prevented from practising in the UK amid widespread nursing shortages

Nurses are to be asked for their views on whether English language requirements for overseas-trained nursing staff should be made less stringent.

The Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) has confirmed it will be running a UK-wide public consultation this summer on proposed changes.

The eight-week consultation – which was approved by the NMC’s governing body last week – is set to launch in June. The NMC told Nursing Standard it would be publishing more details soon.

Regulator’s move follows concern qualified overseas-trained nurses are being prevented from practising in the UK amid widespread nursing shortages

Nursing and Midwifery Council is to launch a consultation on relaxing English language tests
Picture: iStock

Nurses are to be asked for their views on whether English language requirements for overseas-trained nursing staff should be made less stringent.

The Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) has confirmed it will be running a UK-wide public consultation this summer on proposed changes.

The eight-week consultation – which was approved by the NMC’s governing body last week – is set to launch in June. The NMC told Nursing Standard it would be publishing more details soon.

Some overseas nurse applications rejected despite endorsements by managers

The move follows concern qualified overseas-trained nurses are being prevented from practising in the UK – amid widespread nursing shortages – because they cannot pass overly difficult English tests.

Research found some who had struggled to register had lived and worked in the UK for many years, often taking lower paid, non-registered nursing roles.

Applications have been rejected even though nurses’ communication skills were endorsed by managers, with some achieving masters-level qualifications taught and examined in English.

The consultation will look at the regulator’s approach to English testing and whether other evidence, such as references from employers or post-graduate non-nursing qualifications, can be used to prove a nurse’s language skills.

NMC executive director of strategy and insight Matthew McClelland stressed the regulator could not rush into making changes despite urgent calls for requirements to be updated.

NMC says no clear consensus on what English language change requirements should be

‘We know some people have wanted us to move faster with this review, especially given the significant workforce pressures there are in health and care at the moment,’ he said.

‘However, it’s essential we take the time to get this right and don’t act precipitously. This is because our regulatory policies are a matter of public safety, and while it’s clear there’s an appetite for change, as yet there’s no clear consensus on what those changes should be.’

There have long been complaints that the NMC’s English language requirements are a barrier to recruitment, but also concerns standards may be too low.

In 2017, the regulator started accepting the Occupational English Test (OET), as well as the International English Language Testing System test because OET is designed to test language skills used in everyday nursing practice.

The NMC has said it will look again at expanding the range of English tests it accepts once the review is completed and guidance updated.


Find out more

NMC: Open Council 26 May 2022


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