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Overseas nurses: NMC continues English language testing shake-up

Regulator plans to abolish time limit on nursing and midwifery qualifications taken in English

Regulator plans to abolish time limit on nursing and midwifery qualifications taken in English


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The Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) has outlined what it calls common sense plans to change English language requirements for nurses applying to join the register.

The regulator wants to scrap the five-year time limit on nursing and midwifery qualifications taught in English, which can be used as evidence of the language proficiency of applicants trained outside the UK.

Proposal to lower pass mark for written English test

It also wants to lower the pass mark of a written English language test for those trained outside the EU. It is proposing to lower the pass mark for the written section of the Occupational English Test (OET) from a B to a C+.

Last year, it lowered the pass mark in the written section of another accepted test, the International English Language Test System, following criticism from NHS employers that it hampered their ability to recruit foreign nurses.

NMC sought advice from language expert 

The NMC commissioned University of Essex language and linguistics expert Monica Schmid to look at whether English language competence deteriorates over time. She recommended that because language skills stabilise once speakers reach a ‘critical level of competence’, qualifications should count irrespective of how long ago they were obtained.

The NMC has also proposed changes to make it more straightforward for those who have left the register to re-join.

If approved, these changes will mean people who have completed their training in the past five years, but who lapsed their registration, will be able to use their qualification as evidence of clinical competence for both admission and readmission to the register.

Changes ‘in line with NMC’s commitment for better, safer care’

NMC director for registration and revalidation Emma Broadbent said: 'These common sense changes are in line with the NMC’s commitment to better, safer care and will continue to ensure that only those nurses, midwives and nursing associates with the right skills, knowledge and command of English are able to join and re-join our register.'

The NMC governing council will decide on the proposals at a meeting on November 27.


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