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Tagged In:  Nursing

NHS trusts and recruitment agencies have been calling for easier English language testing for foreign nurses or midwives planning to work in the UK. However, at present the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) is standing firm.




Will there be a change in the English language test for nurses and midwives who trained overseas and are planning to work in the UK? Despite concerns from employers that the difficulty of the test is having a negative effect on nurse recruitment, the NMC recently announced that it had found 'no compelling evidence that the International English Language Testing System (IELTS) is not fit for purpose or that the level set is too high'. Patient groups and the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) have also expressed reservations about the lowering of standards, warning that it might compromise safety.

However, on 24 July Nursing Times reported that NHS Employers was continuing to discuss the issue with the NMC and that changes to the testing regime could be brought in by the end of this year. Options include modification of IELTS and discarding it altogether in favour of another test.

What is the current situation?


If you trained overseas and want to work in the UK as a nurse or midwife, you must prove you can speak, read, write and understand English to an agreed standard. Until Britain leaves the EU, if you're from an EU country you may be exempt from the test if you can provide acceptable evidence that your nursing or midwifery qualification was taught and examined in English. If you can't, or if you're from outside the EU (even from an English-speaking country such as Australia or the USA), you must take the IELTS and achieve an overall mark of at least 7.0. That means scoring at least 7.0 in all sections: listening, reading, writing and speaking.

Can you re-sit the test?


Yes. In June 2016 the NMC changed the rules to allow you to achieve the overall score of 7.0 in two sittings (within six months of each other).

How long is the test result valid?


IELTS scores are valid for two years.

An NHS Trust in the West Midlands recently called for the English language test pass rate to be lowered after they were only able to employ three out of 118 Filipino nurses who had applied for jobs following a recruitment drive. "The reason is we just can't get them through the IELTS," said Jackie Overfield, Director of Nursing at Walsall Healthcare NHS Trust. "I am really confident the ones we have offered posts to are capable of doing the job but we cannot get them in because of the rules from the NMC and the immigration folks."

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