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Non-EU overseas nurses to be given more chances to re-sit key NMC exam

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Overseas nurses from outside Europe who are applying to work in the UK will have more chances to re-sit a key exam in order to speed up their applications, under changes announced today by the nursing regulator.

The Nursing and Midwifery Council said that the current system put “considerable pressure” on candidates, because they only had two chances to take the UK-based exam and, if they failed both, were required to wait six months before reapplying.

“We want to make it is as straightforward as possible for nurses and midwives to demonstrate that they can meet the standards”

Jackie Smith

This situation could result in applicants having to leave the country if they did not have six months left on their visa, noted the NMC.

In addition, there is an eight-month limit on the period that nurses can take to pass the Objective Structured Clinical Examination (OSCE), as part of their application for the Tier 2 immigration visa.

From today, nurses will now have three chances to sit the OSCE – which sees applicants act out scenarios involving assessing, planning, delivering and evaluating care, and then be assessed by a panel of examiners.

Overseas nurses will be required to wait three months between the second and third attempt to prepare for the re-sit, and this will all be included within one application to the NMC. It will still continue to be a requirement for applicants to wait 10 days between the first and second attempt.

The OSCE test is part of a two-stage system for ensuring overseas nurses meet the required standard for entering the NMC’s register and working in the UK.

“[These] changes which will help to streamline the process for those coming from overseas”

Jackie Smith

The first part is computer-based and can be taken anywhere in the world. If successful, nurses must then come to the UK for the OSCE.

The changes announced today follow discussions between the NMC, employers, the Department of Health, the UK’s visas and immigration service and the British Council.

“We want to ensure that all nurses and midwives with the right skills and knowledge can join our register regardless of where they were trained,” said Jackie Smith, NMC’s chief executive and registrar.

“Coming to work in a new country can be daunting and we want to make it is as straightforward as possible for nurses and midwives to demonstrate that they can meet the standards required to work in the UK,” she said.

“We have listened carefully to feedback from our stakeholders and introduced changes which will help to streamline the process for those coming from overseas allowing them to focus on what matters most – sitting their exams,” she added.

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Readers' comments (2)

  • I don't understand how the NMC operates. How can you make rules that will not benefit those already in the system. There are many overseas nurses here in the UK waiting to write the OSCE a third time yet the new rule does not apply to them..

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  • I fail to see how the current system works. The ONP system should never have been abolished as if anything it appropriately allowed the overseas nurse to become familiar with UK nursing culture and social culture whilst learning

    The current test system is a money making venture to say the least and to expect persons from non EU countries to have to sit a test with little pre exposure to uk nursing protocol and equipment put pressure on the individual and also costs them an absolute fortune within the minuscule timescale set by the visa and immigration service of 8 months.

    Now the NMC will allow a 3rd attempt......the fact that this may be needed goes towards determining that more in depth training support ie ONP programme is needed in a different way but one thought a third attempt brings in a further £1000 within 8 months

    Profiteering at its best!

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