Starting November 1, 2017, overseas nurses may now present Occupational English Test (OET) result to prove their English language competency in applying for a job in the United Kingdom.
Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) confirmed the move to expand the range options that overseas nurses can use to prove their English language credentials after it was discussed comprehensively during the regulator’s last council meeting in early October.
“By accepting alternative forms of evidence, we are increasing the options available for nurses and midwives to demonstrate they have the necessary command of English to practise safely and effectively, without compromising patient safety,” Jackie Smith, the NMC’s chief executive and registrar, said.
Under the new policy, overseas nurses whose first language is not English will now be able to take one of two recognised language tests to prove their competence, instead of the current single option.
Starting November 1, NMC will accept the OET as proof of English language competence, as well as the International English Language Testing System (IELTS) exam which in place since 2007.
The controversial IELTS test have been blamed by some for holding up trust’s ability to get overseas recruits onto wards and even for deterring applicants.
Trust chief nurses and recruitment agencies have previously warned that the test was set at too high a level and was delaying vital overseas recruitment needed to help fill staffing gaps in the UK.
Staff from abroad were said to be taking between eight months and a year on average to pass IELTS following several attempts, and only around 50% of potential candidates were ultimately successful.
As a result, in May this year, the NMC agreed to hold a “stocktake” of the IELTS test to decide whether any changes were necessary, with employers and unions then consulted about the findings.
Following this, the NMC announced today it was “making alternative options available” for nurses and midwives, who trained outside the UK, to “demonstrate their English language capability”, but has maintained its view that the bar should not be lowered for passing IELTS.
The OET is already used in Australia and assesses English language in a nursing and healthcare context – as opposed to the IELTS which has been criticised for being too academic.
In addition, nurses and midwives who have qualified outside EU or EEA – which comprises parts of Scandinavia – will now also be able to demonstrate English language capability in two other ways.
For example, it said they could provide evidence that they have undertaken a pre-registration nursing or midwifery qualification taught and examined in English.
In addition, they could have registered and practised for a minimum of one year in a country where English was the first and native language, and where a successful pass in an English language test was required for registration.
The new alternative forms of evidence would bring the options available for nurses and midwives who trained outside the EU “more closely in line” with evidence of language capability that the NMC accepted for those trained within in, said the regulator.
“Nurses and midwives trained outside the UK make up around 15% of our register. They are vital to the delivery of health and care services across the UK,” Jackie Smith said.
NMC has previously said it is looking at whether to lower the pass score for just the writing element of the IELTS, but has largely rejected suggestions that the exam overall is too hard. [via NursingTimes.net]