The Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) is changing its International English Language Testing System (IELTS) requirements for applicants from overseas.
Nurses and midwives coming on the register from outside the UK will still have to achieve a “level 7” in the IELTS, but how they go about it is set to change.
While applicants initially had to achieve this standard in one sitting, the new requirements mean a “level 7” can be reached over two sittings of the tests.
However, the NMC stipulates that the two tests must be within six months of each other and the applicants cannot get a score in any area of the test below 6.5.
The IELTS assesses a person’s ability to read, write, speak and listen.
These changes will increase flexibility for applicants whilst ensuring that the appropriate standard of English language is still achieved.
Jackie Smith, NMC chief executive and registrar, said: “IELTS level 7 provides us and the public with assurance that nurses and midwives applying to join the register from outside the UK meet the appropriate standard of English language required to work in the UK.
“We are mindful of the staffing pressures in the health service and after listening to feedback from stakeholders we have introduced changes to our process.
“We will continue to listen to feedback from nurses, midwives and their employers and assess any opportunities to introduce further flexibility.”
The NMC, which started requiring proof of proficiency in January, says the IELTS is a robust, well-established and internationally recognised method of testing English language ability.
According to the IELTS website, a seven on the nine-band scale denotes a “good user” of the language with “operational command of the language, though with occasional inaccuracies, inappropriate usage and misunderstandings in some situations. They generally handle complex language well and understand detailed reasoning.”
The IELTS is also used by the Home Office and other healthcare regulators in English-speaking countries, where a level 7 is a common requirement.