The cost of tests that overseas nurses, midwives and nursing associates must take to work in the UK will reduce by more than 20%, the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) has announced.
From 1 April this year, the cost of the computer-based test of competence will reduce from £130 to £90; the full cost of the practical exam from £992 to £794; and the resit cost of the practical exam from £496 to £397.
The NMC is also considering making it easier for nurses to rejoin the register after a career break by allowing them to take the same test of competence that overseas nurses must sit, rather than forcing returners to undertake a course that can take between three and 12 months to complete.
When people do choose a return to practice course, the NMC will also no longer require for it to have a minimum length. It will also introduce a new test of competence assurance panel – a group of nurses, midwives and other healthcare professionals who will look to ensure the consistency of these tests across different test centres.
These new proposed measures will ‘make it as straightforward and cost effective as possible for people with right skills to join its register’, the NMC said.
But the changes will not apply to those looking to return to specialist community public health nursing. Anyone returning to this specialism within nursing must complete a return to practice course.
The NMC Council will consider the return to practice proposals at its meeting on Wednesday 27 March.
The announcement follows the release of a report by the Health Foundation, King’s Fund and Nuffield trust today, which found that the NHS will face a shortfall of 108,000 full-time equivalent nurses in ten years’ time on current trends.
Andrea Sutcliffe, chief executive and registrar at the NMC, said that the report, which focused on workforce shortages in nursing and general practice, shows that ‘these are challenging times for health and social care’.
Ms Sutcliffe continued: ‘We know this has a direct and too often detrimental impact on the environment that nurses, midwives and nursing associates work in and the quality and experience of care people receive.
‘By proposing a new way for even more people to get back to work after a break, and reducing the cost of the overseas test, we can enhance the numbers of professionals with the right skills coming onto our register. These are people we know are committed to providing the best and safest care possible.
‘I hope both of these changes show that the NMC is playing its part in positively addressing the nursing and midwifery shortages that exist in health services, adult social care services and within local communities across the UK.’