NMC UK expects to change English test for foreign applicants

Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC), the professional regulatory body for nurses and midwives in the United Kingdom, is seriously considering the acceptance of other language tests from foreign applicants, aside from International English Language Testing System (IELTS).

In the latest NMC council meeting on Wednesday, September 27, 2017, it was revealed that the body will likely introduce Occupational English Test (OET) as an alternative to IELTS, after it has received ‘overwhelmingly positive’ feedback from stakeholders.

“Our initial examination of appropriate tests, so far, indicates that the Occupational English Test (OET) matches our criteria, will not negatively impact on patients and also may be a preferred choice for some nurses and midwives because it tests English language in a nursing and healthcare context,” NMC said, as posted in its council meeting papers.

The council has now delegated the power to sign off the new policy to its chair, Dame Janet Finch, and chief executive and registrar Jackie Smith as soon as the consultation in concluded.

Barring any new points being raised in the final days of the consultation, a new test should be introduced by the end of the year.


Currently, nurses who want to work in the UK have to score 7 points in each section of the IELTS test, which includes speaking, reading, listening, and writing. Some nurses with a high level of English said they did not pass the test and claimed it was an unsuitable method for testing their linguistic ability.

The NMC saw a drop in the number of EU nurses registering with it after it introduced the IELTS requirement for them last year.

Recently, recruitment of nurses from the Philippines for around 400 vacancies in Medway Maritime Hospital NHS was stalled after almost 90% percent of the those who were brought in for the first wave flunked the IELTS.

The council also discussed the issue of lowering the required IELTS score, noting that the “Writing element of IELTS had been identified as the most challenging for all who take the test, from whatever professional background.”

They decided, however, that “the stocktake had provided no compelling evidence that the current standard was not fit for purpose or that the level was set too high.”

Director of registration and revalidation for the NMC, Emma Broadbent, said: ‘We’ve had a high level of engagement [to the consultation], the responses are overwhelmingly positive. People think it’s fair.’


Dame Janet said: ‘The ability to communicate in English is fundamentally important in public protection and nothing should compromise that. However, we want to give the opportunity to nurses to work in this country if they wish to.’

A decision is expected to be ‘within weeks, not months,’ said a spokesman, and the changes could get underway soon after that. [With a report from Nursingpractice.com]

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