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NMC UK: Revise language requirements to alleviate UK nursing shortage.

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The purpose of this petition is to open a discussion around the current English requirements set out by the NMC for Overseas nurses.

The Migration Advisory Committee has recently published a letter that confirms that nursing remains a shortage occupation in the UK. With the number of vacancies escalating across the NHS and Independent Healthcare sector. Employers have to rely on the recruitment of Overseas nurses to maintain safe staffing levels and provide quality care to patients. Staff shortages impact patient care and staff morale. Staff shortages can also lead to higher patient morbidity and mortality.

 We believe, and from feedback on the ground from nurses who want to work in the UK, or are already practicing in the UK - the language requirement remains a significant barrier to register with the NMC.

 We agree with the NMC that communication lies at the heart of patient care and its importance cannot be underestimated. We also agree that IELTS remains a robust tool for assessing language competence.

 However, we need to weigh the impact on patient care. Current shortages are currently escalating as a result of the introduced language requirements and are creating a backlog of nurses exacerbating the shortage further. We need the NMC to review the following concerns we have with the current requirements:


The NMC will only require a language test on European trained applicants, if they are unable to provide sufficient evidence of language skills – such as having trained or worked in an English-speaking country.

Overseas Nurses with a Bachelors or Masters Degree taught in English are equally competent to communicate in English than a European trained nurse who studied in English.

 We would suggest that EEA and Overseas nurses language requirements are integrated into a  single requirement, instead of a dual system where one set of requirements applies to a certain geographical group and another set of requirements to yet another.This may ameliorate the  process and establish a single standard for language requirements against which candidates are measured.


In the light of these concerns we request the NMC to look at alternative, or supporting language testing systems.  For example: The OET Occupational English (developed Cambridge University) is definitely worth investigating as the exam itself has been developed around the communication skills needed within the nursing setting.  It is currently accepted in Australia and New Zealand nursing regulators because it is more relevant to role of nurses, whereas the IELTS cannot at present provide this extra layer. 

There are other fit for purpose language tests being developed and Canada Nursing regulator  for example has also produced its own exam. Perhaps we in the UK should be working on our language test that is tailored to British healthcare needs?

Reviewing the IELTS requirement may contribute to more nurses being eligible for NMC registration and enrolment on the register. Current nursing shortages creates a culture where nursing is seen as an overworked and underpaid profession and may lead to fewer nurses considering nursing as a career, or some leaving the profession altogether. Nurses face increased work related stress due to shortages. This impacts their practice and exposes them to situations where they may make mistakes, possibly fatal - and may lose their license to practice. 

We submit our views on this matter to you for your urgent consideration. Before the nursing shortage escalates into a crisis, we urge the NMC to consider our requests and suggestions, in the interest and safety of the public. We hope to resolve the current nursing shortage by collaborating and sharing ideas how best to address these pressing issues together.

This letter is written on behalf of all our clients (Private & NHS healthcare) who are in desperate need to recruit Registered nurses to provide care to their patients. 

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