English language test score will not be lowered, insists NMC
English language standards for European nurses joining the register will not be lowered, the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) has insisted.
English language standards for European nurses joining the UK register will not be lowered, the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) has insisted.
NMC chief executive Jackie Smith said the required score for nurses taking the International English Language Test System (IELTS) did not need to be reduced.
She made the comments at the Queen’s Nursing Institute (QNI) this week just days before the NMC council meets today to discuss the ongoing issue.
Ms Smith’s insistence in a speech to the 300-strong audience followed newspaper reports at the weekend suggesting the NMC was looking at possibly reducing the score.
IELTS require a pass mark of 7.0 in all four areas of English proficiency; writing, reading, listening and speaking.
The pass threshold has been criticised by NHS organisations struggling to recruit nurses, but a stocktake by the regulator published in July found ‘no compelling’ evidence the test was too advanced.
Ms Smith told the QNI conference in London: ‘We will not lower the score to meet a workforce challenge – that’s not right. But what we are looking at is alternative tests that map to our standards.’
She said the NMC had been ‘under significant pressure this year’ over the test that has been in place since 2016 for nurses and midwives who trained in the European Economic Area. She said the pressure the regulator was experiencing was a result of the stress on organisations trying to fill vacancies.
Ms Smith conceded that the written element of the test was a ‘challenge’ but added: ‘Unfortunately, we don’t know why based on the information we have. It does not provide the context, this is that occupational context.’
Ms Smith said consultation on alternative tests was ongoing and an announcement would be made in mid October.
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