Overseas nurses from outside the European Union will for the first time have to pass a compulsory English language test if they want to work in the UK, it was announced today.
The nurses will only be accepted on to the overseas nursing programme, which once completed entitles them to register to practise in the UK, if they have passed the language test, nursing regulator the Nursing and Midwifery Council has decided.
Chief executive and registrar for the NMC, Sarah Trewlis, said: "Linking registration to the completion of a compulsory, approved education programme will make the process more challenging for overseas-trained nurses, but it will also ensure that they are competent, well prepared and safe to work with patients and the public anywhere in the UK."
The NMC decided to bring in a compulsory English language test because it believes nurses should be able to demonstrate competence in written and spoken English.
The learning programme was also being brought in because the NMC was concerned about the lack of understanding by some overseas trained nurses about the cultural differences they face practising in the UK as well as understanding how the NHS works.
The number of supervised and approved placements available to nurses as part of the programme will be restricted so that there can be stricter controls on the quality of placements.
Some placements in the past, particularly those on offer in older people nursing homes, have been "completely inadequate" in preparing overseas nurses for work in the UK, said the NMC.
The council said there was also a "disturbing number" of incidents of overseas nurses arriving in the UK for a placement in the private sector where they were exploited by "unscrupulous employers or recruitment agencies".
The new system, which comes in this September, will mean that nursing recruitment agencies will no longer be able to recruit nurses straight into nursing jobs in the UK because the only route to registration will in future be through the new programme.
The Royal College of Nursing (RCN), which represents nurses, supported the tightening of registration of overseas nurses.
The RCN head of policy, Howard Catton, said the new system would mean improvements in the quality of training and support given to these nurses.
He said under the present system each case for UK registration was considered independently by the NMC, and the RCN was aware that some nurses have complained that their registration has been rejected even though they have a similar background to others whose registration was approved.
He also welcomed the decision for all overseas nurses to have at least 20 days learning time before being considered for registration. Under the present system there have been inconsistencies in the level and type of workplace support and training given to overseas nurses, he said.
Debbie Andalo The Guardian