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Head of tutoring firm calls for nurses to take easier English language tests

Changes to testing could help ease NHS recruitment crisis, he says.
English Language Test

Thousands of Filipino nurses, and many of their European colleagues, could ease the NHS recruitment crisis if changes were made to English language tests, says the head of a language tutoring firm.

The director of a company specialising in tutoring nurses before they sit International English Language Testing System (IELTS) exams also believes the current format is 'fundamentally flawed.

Swoosh English provides nurses with one-to-one tuition from either former IELTS examiners or native English speakers who have the required standard of language.

So far, 200 nurses have been tutored to pass the exam, which requires a score, known as a banding, of 7 across four areas: writing, speaking, listening and reading.

Bar too high

Swoosh English director Alex Melia believes that nurses who cannot afford such training, and fail the test, do so because the score needed to pass

Thousands of Filipino nurses, and many of their European colleagues, could ease the NHS recruitment crisis if changes were made to English language tests, says the head of a language tutoring firm.


Picture: iStock

The director of a company specialising in tutoring nurses before they sit International English Language Testing System (IELTS) exams also believes the current format is 'fundamentally flawed’.

Swoosh English provides nurses with one-to-one tuition from either former IELTS examiners or native English speakers who have the required standard of language.

So far, 200 nurses have been tutored to pass the exam, which requires a score, known as a banding, of 7 across four areas: writing, speaking, listening and reading.

Bar too high

Swoosh English director Alex Melia believes that nurses who cannot afford such training, and fail the test, do so because the score needed to pass is set too high. 

He said: ‘I get Filipino nurses telephoning me in tears because they have failed and cannot afford the £160 fee to take it again.

‘There are around 200,000 unemployed nurses in the Philippines who would love to come and work here.’

He says Swoosh’s EU client base, predominantly from Romania, Poland, Portugal, Italy, Spain and Hungary, experience similar difficulties.

Many employers agree to cover the costs of the exams when they conduct recruitment drives abroad. However, others do not.

Academic model

Speaking after a Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) meeting yesterday at which the regulator's review of IELTS was discussed, Mr Melia said: ‘The current IELTS follows the academic model, which requires nurses to be able to write to the standard of a university thesis.

‘The general model requires them to be able to write a formal letter, which is far more realistic for someone who’s only looking to do a 12-hour shift in a hospital.’

The NMC agreed at the meeting to further review IELTS and consider altering the written part or replacing the whole test with a more general method.

Teresa Wilson, international operations manager of NHS staff provider HCL Workforce Solutions, said: ‘We are pleased that the NMC is looking at this issue in more detail. However, trusts and those working in the system need some certainty about when this will be resolved.

'It is frustrating that the NMC has not provided any indicative timescales for when changes will happen.’


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