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Competency tests: ‘overseas-trained nurses who worked during pandemic should be exempt’

Nurses’ group says NMC should drop ‘unjust’ requirement for staff on temporary register
A nurse sitting an exam. Overseas-trained nurses will have to pay to take the test to stay on the register. Picture: iStock

Nurses group says NMC should drop unjust requirement for staff on temporary register to sit costly exam

The requirement for international nurses who worked through the COVID-19 pandemic to pay to sit clinical competency tests has been described as unjust and insensitive.

Nurses United, a network representing front-line nurses, has written to the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) and Englands chief nursing officer (CNO) Ruth May arguing these nurses should be exempt from the objective structured clinical examination (OSCE).

Reinstating exam requirement as if the last few months never happened

Overseas-trained nurses wishing to join the NMCs register are required to sit the OSCE, and the exam costs 794 per person.

OSCE centres were forced to close at the end of March this year due to lockdown

Nurses’ group says NMC should drop ‘unjust’ requirement for staff on temporary register to sit costly exam

 iStock
Overseas-trained nurses will have to pay to take the OSCE test. Picture: iStock

The requirement for international nurses who worked through the COVID-19 pandemic to pay to sit clinical competency tests has been described as ‘unjust and insensitive’.

Nurses United, a network representing front-line nurses, has written to the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) and England’s chief nursing officer (CNO) Ruth May arguing these nurses should be exempt from the objective structured clinical examination (OSCE).

Reinstating exam requirement ‘as if the last few months never happened’

Overseas-trained nurses wishing to join the NMC’s register are required to sit the OSCE, and the exam costs £794 per person.

OSCE centres were forced to close at the end of March this year due to lockdown measures which prevented candidates from doing their tests.

The test requirement was then suspended during the first wave of COVID-19 to boost nurse numbers and help combat the pandemic.

In its letter, Nurses United says overseas-trained nurses who opted to work during the pandemic should be exempt from taking the exam.  

‘It is deeply unjust that nurses who demonstrated their competencies in a global pandemic are now being asked to complete the OSCE to prove that they are competent,’ the letter reads.

‘We ask that they be allowed to continue working as registered nurses – without now being expected to go back and sit the OSCE as if the last few months never happened.’

Nurses without an OSCE will not be able to practise

Francis Fernando, nurse and founder of the Filipino Nurses Association UK CIC (community interest company) and signatory to the letter, said: 'What the NMC is doing is totally unfair and morally wrong. 

'They have risked their lives to help us out during these unprecedented times and this is our way of thanking them? Scrap the OSCEs and leave them registered with the NMC.'

Nurses United said if nurses do have to sit the OSCE exam, the government should pay the fee.

The NMC has previously warned that while it is not expecting its COVID-19 temporary register to close in the 'immediate future', if it does, those without an OSCE will not be able to continue to practise.

Completing assessment of overseas candidates as UK moves out of crisis period

NMC chief executive Andrea Sutcliffe said she was incredibly grateful to the nurses who trained overseas who signed up to the temporary register but added the OSCEs were a necessary step in ensuring nurses on the register could practise independently.

‘As we now focus on carefully moving out of the crisis period, completing the assessments of our overseas candidates on the temporary register is a core part of the regulations that govern our work,’ she said.

‘The OSCE is the quickest and most effective way of making sure those joining our permanent register can practise independently without the conditions of practice or supervision that were necessary for temporary registration.'

NHS England was contacted for a comment. 

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