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NMC proposes lowering writing requirements for overseas nurses

The Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) has proposed a further relaxing of English writing standards for overseas nurses who want to work in the UK.  

The regulator has outlined ‘common sense’ plans that would lower the required score for writing in the Occupational English Test (OET) following criticism that the current system unnecessarily hinders overseas recruitment.   

The NMC said the proposals bring the requirements into line with another test it uses to assess writing capability. 

It reduced the writing scores it required under the International English Language Testing System (IELTS)  from a 7 to a 6.5 in November 2018. Under the latest plans, the pass mark for the OET written section will change from a B to a C+.

In its council papers, the NMC noted that since lowering the IELTS writing score, ‘there has been no evidence of an increase in language issues in any fitness-to-practise cases’.  

Febin Cyriac, an international healthcare recruiter who launched a petition urging the NMC to reduce the OET pass mark, told Nursing in Practice the proposal is a ‘great sign the NMC is listening to public feedback’. 

He said the change ‘might help the nursing staff shortage we are currently facing’, adding that ‘a good number of highly skilled nurses couldn’t pursue their dream jobs due to the current OET writing requirements’.  

The NMC also plans to remove the five-year limit on using nursing and midwifery qualifications taught in English as evidence for a person’s English language skills.  

Meanwhile, nurses who have completed their training in the past five years, but who have lapsed their registration, will be able to use the qualification as evidence of clinical competence to join or re-join the register. 

Commenting on the proposed changes, Emma Broadbent, director of registration and revalidation for the NMC, said: ‘These common sense changes are in line with the NMC’s commitment to better, safer care and will continue to ensure that only those nurses, midwives and nursing associates with the right skills, knowledge and command of English are able to join and re-join our register.’ 

The proposals will be discussed at the next NMC Council meeting on 27 November, where the regulator will decide whether to approve the changes.

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