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Return to practice: proposals aim to make process easier and faster

NMC plans include taking a competency test rather than a course

NMC plans include taking a competency test rather than a course


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New measures designed to speed up and simplify a nurse’s return to practice following a career break were announced today, and are due to be agreed next week.

The proposals from the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) would allow nurses and midwives who want to rejoin the professional register to take a competency test instead of a course.

Shorter process

The ‘test of competence’ mirrors the assessment taken by overseas nurses wishing to join the UK nursing register, and provides an alternative to return to practice (RtP) courses, which can take 3-12 months to complete.

Currently, nurses and midwives are required to complete an NMC-approved RtP programme if they do not meet the practice hours requirements when seeking to renew their registration, or they wish to be readmitted to the register following a period of lapsed registration.

However, the location, timing and entry requirements have presented difficulties in accessing these programmes, leading the NMC to seek more flexible arrangements.

More flexibility

Applicants can still opt for a RtP course but, as part of the changes aimed to make the process easier, the regulator will no longer stipulate the minimum length of such training. 

Instead, the length and content of the course will be determined by education providers, and include the flexibility to design training to help nurses return to their chosen area of practice, which may not be the field in which they qualified.

The changes, which are recommended for approval at next Wednesday’s NMC council meeting, also include new prices for the competency test for all candidates, which means overseas nurses will see a 20% reduction in total, as follows:

  • The computer-based test will fall from £130 to £90
  • The full practical examination will fall from £992 to £794
  • The resit cost of the practical examination will fall from £496 to £397

Staffing boost

NMC chief executive Andrea Sutcliffe said: ‘By proposing a new way for even more people to get back to work after a break, and reducing the cost of the overseas test, we can enhance the numbers of professionals with the right skills coming onto our register.’

NHS Employers chief executive Danny Mortimer said: ‘Including suitable nurses and midwives on the register as quickly as possible, while upholding the necessary standards, is critical in a competitive global market for nurses.’


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