The nursing regulator has appointed an ‘independent data expert’ to help support its investigation into potentially fraudulent entry of some nurses from Nigeria onto the UK register.
It has also suspended its computer-based testing – undertaken by internationally educated nurses – at 49 sites across the globe amid ongoing concerns.
The updates came in the Nursing and Midwifery Council’s annual report published on Monday.
It was announced earlier this year that the NMC had been alerted to concerns about a third-party computer-based testing site in Ibadan in Nigeria, provided by an organisation called Pearson VUE.
The regulator subsequently informed more than 500 professionals who had used this test site, and were on the register, that the NMC was opening cases in relation to them to consider whether they could have gained ‘fraudulent or incorrect’ entry.
In its annual report, the NMC also confirmed that 1,400 individuals have seen their applications paused while the regulator is ‘looking into their tests’.
‘This group of applicants will not be able to join the register until we have carried out further analysis of the situation,’ the report said.
The test centre in Nigeria opened in 2019 and a total of 1,969 people have taken one or more computer-based tests – a test of competence taken by internationally educated nurses before joining the UK register – during that time.
Within its annual report, the nursing regulator also said it had appointed an independent data expert to ‘provide us with further analysis and scrutiny of the tests taken at the centre, and to help ensure that it is ‘drawing reasonable and objective conclusions’.
In addition, following ‘careful consideration and to ensure the future integrity’ of the test, the regulator has also suspended testing at 49 test centres globally. This was ‘due to lower levels of security controls’ at these test sites, it added.
‘This suspension will remain in place unless and until we can be satisfied that controls can be strengthened to a sufficient level,’ said the report.
The NMC report reiterated that its ‘paramount concern is to maintain the integrity of the register to protect the public’, while ensuring it approaches its investigations about individuals ‘objectively and transparently, avoiding any unfair discrimination’.
The issues relating to the computer-based test applies to ‘a small number’ of those on the register, but the NMC said it was concerned about subsequent racism and discrimination that could be incurred by ‘many more’ nurses and midwives on the register.
‘We are aware that nurses and midwives from overseas and black nurses and midwives often face racism, discrimination, and prejudice in their workplaces and in society,’ said the report.
‘While the issue relating to the [computer-based] test affects a small number of nurses and midwives on our register, we are concerned that many more may be affected by the way their colleagues and the public may react to this incident.’
The NMC said it was working with health and care services, employers, trade unions, the Nigerian Nurses Charitable Association and other groups and networks ‘to ensure people get the support they need’.
It was also ‘working closely with Pearson VUE to implement additional monitoring controls including ongoing forensic data analysis and reporting’, the report noted.