The nursing regulator is contacting more than 500 professionals who trained in Nigeria to determine whether or not they could have gained ‘fraudulent or incorrect’ entry to the register after ‘unusual and concerning’ data emerged from one of its testing sites.
It is understood that more than 1,000 applications from the country have also been paused while the situation is investigated.
The Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) has today issued a statement outlining concerns about a third-party computer-based testing site in Ibadan in Nigeria.
An organisation called Pearson VUE, which runs the computer-based test programme for internationally educated professionals on the NMC’s behalf, had ‘recently alerted’ the regulator to ‘anomalous data’ at the testing site, it said.
Internationally educated professionals must take a two-part test of competence before joining the UK register, including the computer-based test, usually sat in their home country, and a practical test in the UK.
While the NMC has not provided further details on what the concerns are with the test in Ibadan, chief executive and register Andrea Sutcliffe has said the data was ‘unusual and concerning’.
She also confirmed the regulator would refuse registration or remove people from the register if required.
A total of 1,970 people have completed their test at the centre in Ibadan, including 512 who are currently on the UK nursing register.
These individuals on the register – which equates to around 5% of those who qualified in Nigeria – will subsequently now come under investigation.
‘We’re writing to them to set out what’s happened, and to tell them we’re opening cases to determine whether or not they gained fraudulent or incorrect entry to the register,’ the NMC said in an online statement.
It added that the NMC would approach these investigations ‘objectively and transparently, avoiding any unfair discrimination’ and that it has ‘not yet made any determinations about individuals’.
‘Unless the NMC decide there is sufficient evidence to seek an interim suspension order, individuals will be able to continue to work,’ it said.
In addition, the NMC confirmed that ‘at this stage, no fitness to practise concerns have been raised about anyone on the register in this group’.
‘But clearly, if someone has gained entry to the register incorrectly or fraudulently then the NMC will need to take action,’ the statement said.
The remaining individuals, who have applied to join the register but are not yet on it, have seen their applications paused by the NMC.
‘We’re writing to these applicants to ask them to retake the test, and to request more information that we’ll use to make a final decision about their application,’ the NMC added.
The NMC will give all those impacted the option to retake the test, and the test provider will cover the examination fee cost. However, the regulator stressed that retaking and passing the test will not guarantee entry onto the register.
The computer-based tests have been suspended at the Ibadan centre and the regulator said it had ‘since been working urgently with them to examine data and evidence about this’.
Ms Sutcliffe said: ‘We have regulatory processes which we will now follow, and if necessary, we can refuse registration or remove people from our register, to protect the public and people who use health and care services.
‘We know the public and people who use services may find this worrying. This affects just over 500 out of the 771,445 professionals on our register.
‘They will all have passed the practical test in this country before they were accepted onto the register and to date no concerns have been referred to us about their fitness to practise.’
She added that ‘thousands of nurses and midwives who were educated overseas have safely joined our register recently and continue to provide safe, effective and kind care across the UK’.
Data has been reviewed relating to the NMC’s computer-based test from every test site globally, and there is no evidence of similar activity at any other site.
The NMC offers an independent careline which an impacted nurse or midwife can use to speak to someone in complete confidence about how they are feeling. The careline counsellors are experienced working with sensitive and personal information. This support is available all day, every day and can be reached on 02033076802.