Council to consider important English language proposals

The NMC will consider approving two key changes to their English language requirements, at their next meeting on 28 September. This is being done in order to provide a fair and reliable approach to making sure that nursing and midwifery professionals can communicate well in English.  

These change proposals come after an eight-week consultation that received more than 34,000 responses. The areas under consultation were the approach to testing, and whether they should consider other evidence of English language competence.   

New proposals  

One thing was never in doubt- almost all agreed that a high level of English language proficiency is key to effective communication between professionals, and the safety of those they care for.  

At present most people from outside the UK who apply to join NMC’s register take one of the two most popular English language tests: IELTS and OET. In the future, too, testing will remain the main focus of the NMC’s English language requirements.  

The first set of changes will be as follows: 

  • standardising the minimum scores accepted when combining test scores 
  • extending the period for combining test scores from six to 12 months 

There are a few people who miss the test score needed to join the register by a narrow margin. With this proposal, they can avail of a bit more flexibility to re-sit a test, while maintaining the high standard of English language proficiency that the public has a right to expect.   

More changes include a proposal to enable employers to provide supporting evidence of English language proficiency.  

The Council will accept supporting evidence where an applicant has trained in English in a country where English is not a majority spoken language; or narrowly missed passing the English language test.  

Reasons for these proposals 

Employers can now provide objective information and evidence about someone’s use of English in a health and social care setting in the UK. This will include evidence from interactions with people who use services. There will be greater flexibility for people who are already contributing to health and social care in the UK without affecting the high standard of English language skills needed to deliver the highest levels of patient care.    

The Council also considered whether to accept post-graduate qualifications taught and examined in English as supporting evidence. There were similar levels of support for this proposal from all those who were consulted, but since there were some complex issues to be considered further, there will be no recommendation on this at present.  

Next steps  

Subject to Council approval, implementation of the proposed changes will happen from January 2023.   

Internationally trained professionals are known to make a vital contribution to safe, effective and kind nursing and midwifery across the UK. But only if nursing and midwifery professionals have effective English language skills and can communicate safely with each other and those they care for, will patient safety be ensured.  

The NMC will keep professionals, stakeholders and partners updated in the next few months and moving forward.