Concerns have been raised that new English language controls for European Union nurses and midwives seeking to join the UK register could hamper overseas recruitment efforts by the NHS.
From January 2016, the Nursing and Midwifery Council will be able to test EU applicants if they are unable to produce evidence showing they are competent in understanding and using English.
Currently, nurses from outside the EU are asked for evidence that they have passed the International English Language Testing System, but a legal loophole has prevented this being applied to nurses who trained within the union.
At an NMC council meeting last week council members discussed the draft policy for introducing the language controls. It was suggested the change could have a “significant negative effect” on the number of EU trained nurses and midwives who are able to register with the NMC.
Speaking to Nursing Times, NMC chief executive and registrar Jackie Smith said: “I’ve no doubt it will be frustrating for individual and for employers but this is about public protection which will not be compromised.
“I’m sure people will find it off-putting but I don’t know whether it will or won’t stop people from coming over here,” said Ms Smith.
She said that the high level of demand for nurses in the UK at the moment meant she “can’t see the appetite to join our register diminishing”.
On Friday, the NMC announced that a 12-week public consultation on the policy for introducing English language checks would begin in early June 2015.