NMC proposes change in English language test for overseas nurses

NM IELTS Update

NMC proposes change in English language test for overseas nurses

National Medical Council UK has been considering changes to the requirements for nurses and midwives from outside UK, who have to pass the International English Language Test System (IELTS) with a minimum band of 7 in all the four modules for so long. This is part of the extensive and detailed review of international registration, as it has been found that there is a severe dearth of qualified and able nurses in UK, specially from pan-Asian countries, who are extremely capable of handling the patients with utmost care and responsibility, but are not so proficient in English.

Under the new proposal, nurses and midwives will be required to continue to achieve a minimum overall band of 7 in the IELTS test, but a level of 6.5 in the Writing module would be accepted; provided the candidate is able to achieve a band of 7 in Reading, Listening and Speaking. The NMC has discussed widely with stakeholders and heard that although most of the candidates are able to communicate quite effectively in English, many nurses and midwives taking the IELTS test  were unable to clear it with level 7, or just missing out.

Emma Broadbent, Director of Registration and Revalidation at NMC, observed that nurses and midwives from outside the UK are a vital part of UK’s healthcare workforce, and without them it would be impossible to take care of the patients. As she rightly pointed out,   ” 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.” She also said that, “We also recognise the current workforce is under significant pressure, as the number of vacancies are well documented. The change proposed would increase flexibility for highly skilled professionals coming to the UK without compromising safety.”

The change has already been implemented and this is a source of major relief for the Indian nurses who are highly skilled, though their language and communication skills are not so strong. Feedback from the majority of stakeholders has been that requiring a score of 7 for writing reflects a knowledge of English higher than the level necessary for the safe and effective practice of nursing or midwifery in the United Kingdom and may not be a proportionate or fair regulatory requirement.

Why the change is being implemented?

According to the sources, the Writing test requires essay writing and the expression of personal opinion whereas accurate writing for nurses and midwives in the modern working environment is often more about precise reporting of times and events. So, this extra effort is uncalled for and not required at all. Moreover, there will be resource implications associated with the language changes that can be accommodated within existing resources in the Registration and Revalidation Directorate.

Of course, there will be some costs associated with communicating and implementing these changes, which are being taken care of by the overseas programme budget. These changes, alongside the streamlining of the registration, evidence requirements would increase fairness by allowing more competent overseas nurses to meet the parameters.

What does this change in band mean in the Indian nursing context…specially for those who are interested for a rewarding, overseas nursing career?

According to authentic and registered Healthcare agencies in UK, Indian nurses are most welcome there as they are committed, honest and dedicated to their jobs. The offers are also very lucrative, which includes payment in UK Pounds, place to stay and all the other facilities including visa processing etc; if the nurse is able to pass the NMC CBT exam along with IELTS. There is also evidence that the writing aspect of the IELTS Academic test in particular is not so essential to be cleared with a band of 7, as nursing is more of a hands-on and practice oriented job, where oral communication plays a major role to connect with the patient, his/ her family, caregiver, senior doctors, nurses, health care organisations.

Last but not the least, Health Education England ( HEE) is working very closely with the NMC,UK to ensure that high quality international nursing graduates who wish to work and learn in the NHS can provide the safest and highest quality healthcare to the people of England. They have welcomed this announcement and will continue to support the NMC in maintaining the best standards achieved by the NHS workforce.

The test requires essay writing and the expression of personal opinion whereas accurate writing for nurses and midwives in the modern working environment is often more about precise reporting of times and events.

Recommendation: The Council is recommended to approve the proposal to continue to accept an overall score of 7 in the International English Language Test (IELTS), allowing a minimum of 6.5 in the writing element.

There will be resource implications associated with the language changes all of which can be accommodated within existing resource in the Registration and Revalidation directorate. There will be some costs associated with communicating and implementing the change and these will be funded from the overseas programme budget. Equality and diversity implications: 29 These changes, alongside the streamlining of the registration, evidence requirements would increase fairness by allowing more competent overseas nurses to meet our requirements.

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