As part of its extensive review of international registration, the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) is proposing to change the requirements for overseas nurses and midwives taking the International English Language Test System (IELTS).
Under the proposal, nurses and midwives will be required to continue to achieve a minimum overall level of 7 in the IELTS test, but in future a level 6.5 in writing would be accepted alongside a level 7 in reading, listening and speaking.
The NMC has consulted widely with stakeholders and heard that despite being able to communicate to a high level in English, many nurses and midwives taking the IELTS test were just missing out on achieving a level 7.
Emma Broadbent, Director of Registration and Revalidation at the NMC said: “Nurses and midwives from outside the UK are a vital part of our workforce, without them the health and care system as we know it simply wouldn’t exist.
"We absolutely recognise that good communication is essential to safer, better care and people can be assured that only those who can communicate to a high standard in English will be able to join our register.
“We also recognise the current workforce is under significant pressure and the number of vacancies are well documented. The change proposed would increase flexibility for highly skilled professionals coming to the UK without compromising safety.”
Danny Mortimer, Chief Executive of NHS Employers, said: “Good communication between nurses, midwives and patients is of paramount importance to the safety and care of patients.
“We are really pleased that the NMC continues to carefully progress reforms to the system of language testing, and believe these recommendations balance the need to protect the public with improved access for much needed nursing talent.”
Professor Lisa Bayliss-Pratt, Chief Nurse, Health Education England said: “Health Education England (HEE) is working closely with the NMC to ensure that high quality international nursing graduates who wish to work and learn in the NHS can provide the safest, highest quality healthcare to people in this country. HEE welcomes this announcement and will continue to support the NMC in ensuring the highest possible standards are achieved by the NHS workforce.”
This proposed change is one of a number of improvements the NMC is making to its overseas processes.
The NMC’s Council will consider the proposals at its meeting on 28 November 2018.