The NMC has today launched a consultation on proposed changes to its English language requirements for overseas applicants following ‘critical feedback’ from stakeholders on the current requirements.
Two areas are being consulted on – NMC’s approach to testing, and whether the regulator should consider accepting other evidence of English language competence, such as employer references.
The eight-week consultation comes after the nursing regulator said it has received ‘a considerable amount of critical stakeholder feedback’ to its approach over the last year, including that the minimum standard to be achieved in the English language tests is ‘too high’.
The public service union Unison has welcomed the review, which it said is ‘long overdue and has not maintained pace with demand’.
The NMC said: ‘Effective communication is vital for high-quality care. That’s why all nurses, midwives and nursing associates joining our register have to demonstrate strong English language skills.’
Acknowledging some people have ‘concerns about whether [its] current English language requirements are fair and reliable,’ the NMC said it is ‘a priority to make sure they are,’ and that it ‘regularly reviews’ all its regulatory standards and requirements.
The NMC currently accepts three types of English language evidence – recent achievement of the required score in accepted English language tests; completion of a pre-registration nurse, midwife or nursing associate programme that was taught and examined in English, and included clinical interaction in English; and recent practice for one year in a majority English-speaking nation.
Matthew McClelland, executive director of strategy and insight at the NMC, said: ‘Safe, effective and kind care relies on nursing and midwifery professionals being able to communicate clearly and safely with each other, and with people using services. That’s why it’s so important that everyone joining our register has strong English language skills.
‘We also want to make sure there are no unnecessary barriers to people joining our register, no matter where they trained or how they became competent in English.’
The NMC said the consultation ‘follows several months of collaboration with professionals, partners and stakeholders to gather initial views and build a clear evidence base for change’.
Mr McClelland said: ‘We’re grateful to everyone who’s shared their initial views with us about the fairness and reliability of our current approach, and what they’d like to see change and why. Now it’s open to everyone to have their say through our consultation. We’ll use the feedback to shape recommendations to our Council in September.’
The online consultaiton survey, which the NMC says takes about 15 to 20 minutes to complete, will run until 12 August, with a view to implementing any resulting changes from October this year.
The consultation comes after research warned hundreds of overseas nurses who have lived in the UK for years cannot work as a nurse because they are struggling to meet English language requirements.
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