We are a small media organisation which is committed to the welfare and wellbeing of overseas nurses from Kerala, India.
We write to bring to your attention a major and serious issue which is affecting thousands of overseas qualified nurses who are currently in the UK on various immigration status (eg. Students, Work Permit, Tier 2 & 4 etc).
The current requirement set by NMC in relation to English language requirement, i.e. the International English Language Testing (IELTS) score for the registration of overseas qualified Nurses is unrealistic and not practical. Therefore, we are kindly requesting you to review the current minimum score requirement for the registration of overseas qualified Nurses.
In order to achieve the goals, the NMC register all nurses and midwives and ensure that they are properly qualified and competent to work in the UK. The NMC sets the standards of education, training and conduct that nurses and midwives need to deliver high quality healthcare and consistency throughout their careers.
We also note from you mission statement that the NMC is fair in relation to implementation of its policy and provide equality of opportunity for all. We appreciate your expertise and the contributions made to the development of Nursing and Midwifery in the UK. However, we feel that the minimum IELTS score set for overseas qualified and trained nurses is not fair and is not in accordance with your mission and values.
We note that there is separate set of rules to join the NMC Register for Nurses and Midwifes trained in the European Union and Overseas. There may be a slight variation in the method of education and training for Nurses and Midwives in the European Union than other overseas countries. However, the major and important aspect is that the Nurses & Midwives from the European Union may not be proficient in English. There are adequate proof and evidence that these professionals from the European Union cannot provide appropriate healthcare to the general public. This is detrimental to the goals and values of the NMC.
We would point out that there are several overseas countries where the Nursing and Midwifery education and training are equivalent or comparable to that in the European Union and the UK. The training and work experience gained will enable the Nurses and Midwives from these overseas countries to provide better health care than their European Union counterparts.
The exception allowed to the professionals from the EU countries may have been due to the EU treaty rights and the provisions under the EU Constitution and the resulting obligation of the UK to comply with those treaty rights and constitutional provisions.
If an exception is being given to the professionals from non-English speaking EU countries, this should also be made available to Nurses and Midwifes from other overseas countries.
The important question here is why the NMC has set the minimum score at 7 for the Academic version of the IELTS for listening & reading, writing & speaking and for the overall sections.
To our knowledge there are no other profession in the UK which has set this limit. Even Doctors, Engineers and Teachers are not required to meet such a high score. The various Universities in the UK are only requesting a score of 6.5 for obtaining admission to any of their Post-Graduate Courses. Similarly, the UK Border Agency is only requiring a score of 6.5 even for the highly skilled migrants who wish to immigrate to the UK. It would be pertinent to note that the highly skilled migrants include scientists and other top notch professionals. In these circumstances we wonder why such a higher and impractical score is set. We strongly believe that there is an ulterior motive behind this.
There is a shortage of Nurses in the UK. Only two categories of Nurses are currently on the UK Border Agency’s shortage occupation list. However, practically all the NHS Trusts are experiencing extreme difficulties in finding qualified Registered Nurses. We believe that this has mainly caused due to the aggressive measure taken by the NMC which has prevented many qualified professionals to obtain the NMC registration. You may see from your statistics that new registrations have been reduced drastically after the new eligibility score for IELTS was introduced. We would also like to bring to your attention that several hundreds of Nurses are immigrating to Australia and Canada etc due to the uncertainty prevailing in the UK. If appropriate action is not taken immediately the current situation will result in a severe shortage of Nurses and will affect the NHS.
The minimum score set for IELTS which is to be scored for each of the three headings is unfair and possibly unlawful. We believe that this score has been set for the overseas nurses in order to prevent them from obtaining the NMC registration and thereby to prevent them from obtaining a job as a Registered Nurse in the UK. The ulterior motive may be to indirectly force them to work as a Carer.
In India the Nursing and Midwifery education, training and the profession as such is regulated by the Indian Nursing Council (equivalent to the NMC in the UK) and there are State Nursing Councils which comes under the INC. The Nurses and Midwifes who has the relevant qualifications and registrations from the INC or the State Nursing Councils are eligible for registration if they complete the ONP programme in the UK. The only impediment in the way is the unreasonable and non-practical minimum score limit set for the IELTS.
We would recommend the NMC to modify the ONP curriculum to include an English training programme to assess and provide the relevant English language skill required. This will provide a fair and equal opportunity to Nurses and Midwifes from overseas countries.
A separate provision for exemption from the English language requirement could be made for overseas qualified Nurses who have gained a minimum of three years work experience as a Care Worker in the UK.
Alternatively, there are other English Language Courses which are equivalent to the IELTS which may also be used to asses the English language capability. We would point out that the UK Border Agency has prepared a detailed list of other English language tests which they use to assess various immigration applications for highly skilled professionals. The NMC may consider using these English tests.
If none of the above suggestions are acceptable, we would request you to consider lowering the minimum score required for IELTS to 6.5.
Due to the above reasons, we would request you to review the NMC policy in relation to the registration requirement for Overseas Qualified and Trained Nurses.