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Nursing regulator set to launch new checks for overseas nurses

Overseas nurses will undergo extra competence and skills checks under a new registration system to be launched by the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) this autumn.

NMC chief executive Jackie Smith said the move would boost public protection.

“When we put someone on the register, ensuring they can practise to UK standards is terribly important,” she told Nursing Times.

The new process will see nurses who trained outside Europe apply to join the NMC register online before doing a two-part competence test.

They will first sit an online exam at a local centre and then complete a practical test in the UK in a simulated practice environment.

Applicants will also have to provide all the relevant documents including identification, university transcripts, and language certificates to show they have good command of English.

Jackie Smith

Jackie Smith

The introduction of the new system follows a review of registration processes for overseas applicants, which revealed a number of weaknesses.

The NMC stopped processing overseas applications between February and April last year, which led to a backlog.

However, Ms Smith said the regulator was now “back on track”. “We paused the process for a while to make sure we had all the right procedures in place to carry out the right checks on individuals,” she said.

“That did create a delay and impacted on people who wanted to join the register but now we’re back on track.”

Readers' comments (6)

  • When it says Nurses does this mean midwives as well? or just Nurses?

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  • What this really means is the current 3 - 6 month University based NMC approved programme for overseas nurses with competencies signed off by a sign off mentor is to be replaced by an on line multiple choice test and a one off OSCE exam. There will no longer be any period of supervised practice. I am not sure how this is an increase in standards.

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  • I work in a home for the elderly suffering with dementia, where a lot of carers are employed from Indian ethnic background.Most residents complain that they simply cannot understand a word they say because of heavy accents.Just being able to use English as a language isn't enough-overseas nurses need to able to show they are good communicators and able to hold effective,meaningful conversations with vulnerable patients.

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  • The test taken in your home country is open to abuse, no matter what regulation is believed to be in place. The DVLA believe up to 1,000 candidates a year cheat the UK driving theory test and thete are many 'testers' now jailed for fraud. Similar cases have occured with the IELTS test for language competency. This is NOT a safer option and puts the public at risk. How can a one of test in a classroom demonstrate greater competence than a 4 month period of supervised practice?

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  • The ridiculous system has prevented nurses from the USA, Australia , Canada and New Zealand from being registered in the UK. These are nurses who speak English as a first language and who have been educated via validated university courses.

    It is those from the "third world" to need close scrutiny , those who use "English" as a second language and who's "degrees" are not worth the paper which they are written on.

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  • Very interesting comment about "third world" speakers of English as a second language.May I say that as just one such person, my perspective would be very much less myopic. Whoever thinks that all 'native' speakers of English are mutually comprehensible is distinctly short of an adequate cultural base. The differences in dialect across the UK are sufficient to demolish that viewpoint and as for some regional accents from the States, the notion of 300 million people separated by a common tongue is all too apparent. What actually matters is the functional competency of the individual, both with respect to general language skills and nursing specific vocabulary. Again there remains the nature of the non-verbal communication skills that we require with so many patients. The crux of the argument is that we ought to be focussing on communication skills for everyone and not lapsing into proto-racist stereotypes. Surely a well managed interview should be able to determine the adequacy of anybody's competencies in this matter.

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