The Nursing and Midwifery Council is asking its council to approve a public consultation on amending English language requirements for internationally trained applicants, to ensure the processes are “fair and reliable”.
This request comes after concerns that have been raised about the current requirements, as well as the increasing number of successful appeals by applicants to the NMC’s registration appeals panel.
The NMC argues that this shows that “there may be a case for change”.
At present, internationally trained nurses must demonstrate “a knowledge of English which is necessary for safe and effective practice of nursing, midwifery in the UK or as a nursing associate in England”.
The NMC currently accept three types of evidence to demonstrate this:
- A recent achievement of the required score in one of the English language tests it accepts. Applicants may combine two test scores as long as they are taken within six months of each other.
- Completion of a pre-registration nurse, midwife or nursing associate programme that was taught and examined in English, and included clinical interaction in English
- Recent practice for one year in a majority English speaking nation
One central issue is the number of internationally trained nurses who are unable to meet the required scores and therefore unable to register, despite holding post-graduate qualifications taught in English, or having worked in the UK in an unregulated health and social care role.
There have also been discussions about the number of countries whose primary language is English not appearing on the list of accepted English-speaking countries, as well as the lack of support available to help international nurses prepare for the test.
The NMC has formed an external advisory group to help inform any potential changes to the requirements.
It is asking its council to approve a public consultation on the proposals, which will encompass three specific changes to the evidence that international nurses may provide.
The first change is the scores that are accepted for language tests, including how applicants can combine scores across test sittings. The NMC wants to seek views about what the minimum test scores should be in each test that is accepted, as well as the period of time that should be allowed between tests.
The second change is whether it can accept evidence of non-registered practice in English supported by an employer reference or other evidence.
The third change is whether it can accept non-nursing or midwifery post-graduate qualifications taught and examined in English.
Dr Agimol Pradeep, liver transplant coordinator at King’s College Hospital, and Dr Dilla Davis, nursing lecturer at the University of Salford, have been calling for changes to the NMC’s English language requirements.
They have been campaigning on behalf of thousands of India-trained nurses who have been unable to pass the language test and achieve registration despite living and working as healthcare assistants in the UK.
Dr Pradeep said: “Even though it took us investing a lot of time and effort without expecting any material benefit, we are so happy that the NMC started acknowledging our request and they agreed to review the registration policy earlier than they planned.
“One important aspect we want to highlight is that we never asked to lower the standards. Our request remains to review the process keeping patient safety as priority and finding justice for these well-deserved nurses.”
From left, Agimol Pradeep and Dilla Davis
Dr Davis welcomed some of the proposals, but expressed upset to the reference in the document to reducing standards and that the report does not specifically acknowledge the plight of the internationally qualified nurses who they are campaigning on behalf of.
She said that even though herself and Dr Pradeep look specifically at Indian nurses, there are many others who have suffered because of the language tests.
“I am receiving emails from [nurses from] Nigeria, Ghana and the Philippines, who have been here for more than 17-18 years and cannot pass these language test. It’s quite hostile,” she added.
The NMC Council will ask for permission to consult on these matters when it meets on 26 May in Northern Ireland.