Campaign to reduce IELTS threshold for overseas nurses


A campaign has been launched to reduce the International English Language Testing Systems (IELTS) Score for Overseas and EU/EEA Nurses Registration in the UK….reports Asian Lite News

Overseas and EU/EEA  Qualified nurses need to achieve an Individual score of 7/9 in Academic IELTS to gain registration with the UK Nursing Midwifery Council(NMC). International nurses started migrating into the UK  in 2001 when no language requirements were in place.  At a later stage, the NMC implemented the Academic IELTS requirements.

The requirements are based on 4 modules:  Listening, Reading, Writing and Speaking. Individual scores of 7 needs to be achieved in each module (with no category being under 6.5)  in a single or double sitting. This is considered really difficult to achieve and unnecessary for the needs of the profession.

Most University courses require language competencies with IELTS scores below 7 (current requirements of the NMC).   As from January 2016, EU and EEA nurses, as non-EU (overseas) nurses, also need to go through the same IELTS scoring criteria. Coincidently, during this time, the number of EU/EEA staff registering to the NMC has gone down by 96% from its peak in July 2016.

Most of the new applicants believe the language requirement remains a significant barrier to register with the NMC. Sir Bruce Keogh’s  Report identified that the shortage of nurses and understaffing levels were the reason for high death rates in 14 NHS hospitals. Also, the Royal College of Nursing (RCN)  report says the NHS faces a shortage of  20000 nurses leaving patients to suffer (this original figure has now been superseded and is now 24000, as quoted by the RCN and predicted to reach up to 42000 within 6 years). The Health foundation report  “Election briefing: A sustainable workforce – the lifeblood of the NHS and social care”  published  in May 2017 highlights the combined issues of the current problems: recruitment, retention and morale which the issue of IELTS is aggravating and could lead to unsafe staffing level. The impact (from the same report is believed to be even higher if taking into account social care.

A recent consultation report conducted by the NMC stated that the majority of the public believed the  IELTS  score threshold for registration with the NMC  should be reduced and this to still be satisfying patient safety.

Also, the report says the IELTS does not reflect mastery of language and other approaches should be considered (this is reflected in the following Nursing Times article). ‘Academic IELTS’ requirement is not a good reflection of the English needed to practise as a nurse.

A high level of Oxford grammar is not necessarily what will best equip nurses working with elderly residents in a private nursing home in rural Northern Ireland or Scotland. Accents, colloquialisms, phone situations will be more relevant than a university lecturer’s standard of English. Steve Brent, CEO of International House and IELTS expert, who facilitated 46,000 tests last year, says that General Training would be ‘a better fit for recruiting nurses than the Academic Module’.

A recent study conducted by HCL Workforce confirms currently 1 in 10 nursing posts are unfilled and current nursing vacancies stand at a massive 24,000. But UK recruitment isn’t picking up the slack.

This Petition has been signed by more than 6500 Nurses and Midwifes. A number of organisations supporting this petition.Here is the link for the petition.