A national numeracy and literacy test will not be introduced for students entering pre-registration nurse training, the NMC has decided.
Despite some quality concerns in this area, the regulator decided to maintain the status quo whereby it advises higher education institutions (HEIs) on the minimum skills needed by students, and colleges and universities are left to decide whether individuals have attained the necessary level.
‘This option was favoured because it was considered there was insufficient evidence to support testing as the best option… and the entry criteria should remain wide rather than restrict access,’ minutes from last month’s NMC nursing committee meeting in London reveal.
The decision met mixed reactions from nursing unions and academics.
RCN student adviser Gill Robertson agreed a national test could discriminate against people with disabilities, such as those with dyslexia. ‘It is important to keep the entry gate as wide as possible,’ she said.
But Peter Jones, a health science lecturer at City University London, warned that the NMC had missed an opportunity to improve professional standards.
‘The NMC should be taking their responsibility more seriously and show some leadership for the nursing profession in terms of providing guidance on literacy and numeracy,’ he said. ‘We need to ensure people being considered are of a certain academic quality and that they will be able to manage the work of a professional nurse.’
Mr Jones warned that sometimes low-quality students were being admitted to courses because universities needed the funding. ‘Unfortunately it’s a case of bums on seats,’ he said.
Gail Adams, Unison’s head of nursing, was also disappointed by the decision. ‘This is an issue and it’s one we need to acknowledge. The difficulty is that without national standards, there’s a plethora of practice, some very good and some not so good.’
She called for a national assessment and extra support to address the needs of those failing it, so that the door was not closed to those needing further training in this area.