There has been a recent spike in the number of overseas nurses and midwives from outside of the European Union joining the UK nursing register, according to the Nursing and Midwifery Council.
Latest figures presented during an NMC council meeting yesterday show an 86% increase in the number of nurses and midwives joining the register from outside the EU in the past three months.
“It’s pleasing to see an increase in nurses and midwives from outside the EU joining the UK workforce”
The average number joining each month increased to 440 between April and June 2018 compared with an average of 237 per month, in the previous nine months.
At the end of June 2018 there were 69,425 nurses and midwives on the register from outside the EU compared with 67,534 in July 2017 – an increase of nearly 2,000.
In contrast, other NMC figures have shown that the number of new nurses coming from the EU to work in the UK has dropped by 87% from 6,382 in 2016-17 to 805 in 2017-18.
The NMC noted that the spike in numbers from outside the EU followed recent changes to its processes and the evidence that it accepted from nurses and midwives to demonstrate their English language capability.
These changes included accepting evidence that a nurse or midwife has been trained and examined in English or that they have practised in an English speaking country.
Other moves included accepting the Occupational English Test (OET) in addition to the International English Language Testing System (IELTS) language test.
“Our proposals will make the application process simpler and fairer”
Meanwhile, the regulator has also announced a wider review of its registration processes for people trained outside the UK.
It highlighted that it had outlined how it intended to “further improve and accelerate” the application process for nurses and midwives trained outside the UK.
Plans include allowing nurses and midwives from outside the EU to apply to join the register immediately after qualifying – rather than having to wait 12 months as is currently the case.
A new online system will also be developed, allowing applicants to prepare and submit their application and track its progress as well as an updated test of competence to reflect the NMC’s new education standards.
In addition, there will be improved guidance and support for applicants and employers, said the regulator in a statement on Wednesday.
The announcement follows recent changes to the four-part practical assessment for nurses and midwives trained outside the EU, which means applicants are now only required to re-sit the parts of the exam they fail.
Previously overseas candidates taking the Objective Structured Clinical Examination (OSCE), which is designed to test key clinical skills, would need to re-sit all parts of the test if they failed any element.
However, since the start of this week, nurses and midwives are now only required to re-sit the parts of the test they actually failed. The move was first announced last April.
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Emma Broadbent, director of registration and revalidation at the NMC, said: “It’s pleasing to see an increase in nurses and midwives from outside the EU joining the UK workforce over the past few months.
“Indications are that the changes we’ve made are making a difference – but it’s very early days and we must wait to see if this trend continues,” said Ms Broadbent.
“The fact remains that the UK workforce is under significant pressure and it’s vital that we continue to enable the right people with the right skills and knowledge to join our register in the quickest and safest way possible,” she said.
“That’s why the time is right to look at the application processes for overseas nurses and midwives as whole, to ensure that it’s truly fit for the future,” she said.
She added: “Our proposals will make the application process simpler and fairer while continuing to maintain the high standards required to join our register.”
The NMC said it aimed to introduce a revised and updated process for all overseas applicants from early 2019.