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Wednesday, 18 October 2017

English language test change for foreign nurses hoping to work in UK

Written by Ella Pickover

Foreign nurses applying to work in the UK will be able to demonstrate their ability to speak English using an additional test, the nursing regulator has announced.

The move may boost the number of nurses who come to work in Britain.

The Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) said it will accept the Occupational English Test (OET) as proof of a nurse or midwife's competence in English.

The OET assessment is an English language test designed for the healthcare sector.

Countries including Australia, New Zealand and Singapore currently accept the test as a measure of English proficiency.

At present, nurses must demonstrate their English skills using the International English Language Testing System (IELTS).

The test is used for study, migration or work and there are two versions - the academic test which is for people applying for higher education or professional registration and general training for those migrating to Australia, Canada and the UK, or applying for secondary education, training programmes and work experience in an English-speaking environment.

In June, the Observer reported that some native English-speaking nurses, including from Australia, could not pass the IELTS test.

It has been reported that some English-speaking nurses struggle with the written part of the test.

During the consultation process, the NMC heard feedback that the OET has merit for its applicability to the healthcare context.

Some told the regulator it was a more appropriate measure that IELTS, which uses more generic or popular science scenarios.

Meanwhile, the regulator has also announced other options available for nurses and midwives who trained outside the UK to demonstrate their English language capability.

Nurses and midwives who have qualified outside Europe will also be able to demonstrate their language skills if they have a recent qualification taught and examined in English.

They will also qualify if they have registered and practised for a minimum of one year in a country where English is the first and native language, and a successful pass in an English language test was required for registration.

The NMC said these alternative methods would align the language assessments for international nurses with the ones required of nurses trained in Europe.

NMC chief executive and registrar Jackie Smith said: "Nurses and midwives trained outside the UK make up around 15% of our register. They are vital to the delivery of health and care services across the UK.

"By accepting alternative forms of evidence we are increasing the options available for nurses and midwives to demonstrate they have the necessary command of English to practise safely and effectively, without compromising patient safety."

A spokesman for the Royal College of Nursing said: "The NHS is struggling to recruit overseas nurses but we would firmly oppose any change just to plug workforce gaps. It must be robust and command the confidence of the public.

"This move maintains high standards by using a comparable test but the NMC must review the decision every two years. Performance data must be collected and released too, including for the current test."

In July, figures from the NMC showed that for the first time in recent history more midwives and nurses are leaving the register than are joining, with homegrown UK nurses leaving in the largest numbers.

Between 2016 and 2017, 20% more people left the register than joined it, and among those first registered in the UK, the figure was 45%.

Copyright (c) Press Association Ltd. 2017, All Rights Reserved. Picture (c) Rui Vieira / PA Wire.