New consultation on our English language standards

Published on 26 May 2022

By Matthew McClelland Executive Director of Strategy and Insight

Following Council approval, we launched our consultation on 17 June 2022.  We’ll run the consultation for eight weeks, giving people plenty of time to have their say on proposed changes to our English language requirements. Everyone can share their thoughts by filling out our online survey, which only takes around 20 minutes. The consultation is open until 12 August 2022.

You can stay up to date by visiting on our website and social media channels, and subscribing to our newsletters.

Nursing and midwifery are among the UK’s most trusted professions. Of all health and care professionals, nurses, midwives, and nursing associates spend the most time with patients and people who use services. Across our lifetimes, most of us will experience first-hand the safe, effective and kind care that nursing and midwifery professionals provide.

It’s essential that professionals can communicate effectively in English

Effective communication is vital for high-quality, person-centred care and fundamental to public trust and confidence in health and care professionals. Clinical practice requires nurses, midwives, and nursing associates to communicate with patients and colleagues clearly, sensitively, and with kindness – very often on complex issues and in pressurised environments. This means it’s essential that everyone joining our register has strong English language skills.

Everyone joining our register has to demonstrate their English language competence in one of three ways. One way is to train in English, and another is to practise in an English-speaking role as a registered nursing or midwifery professional. The other way is to take an approved English language test. That’s the route most internationally trained professionals use.

In 2021–2022, more than 23,000 internationally trained professionals joined our register, and the vast majority had taken an English language test. The two tests we currently accept are IELTS and OET, both of which are reputable, not-for-profit tests used by many regulators and other organisations around the world.

We’re reviewing our requirements

We keep all our regulatory standards and requirements under regular review. Over the past few months, we’ve been gathering views from professionals and our partners about our current English language requirements. We’ve reviewed and adjusted these on many occasions since they were introduced, but we know some people have concerns about whether they’re fair and reliable for everyone. It’s a priority for us to make sure they are.

Our pre-consultation engagement started with a roundtable event in November. This included representatives from international professionals groups, employers, trade unions, test providers, and individuals who have experience of our English language processes. Since then we’ve continued to gather views from professionals, partners and the public, to build evidence to help us decide whether we should change our guidance.

In June we will be launching a public consultation on potential changes.

What we’re proposing

We will be consulting on two areas: firstly our English language test approach and , secondly, whether we should consider accepting alternative evidence of English language competence, such as employer references, evidence of unregulated practice in a healthcare setting in the UK, or postgraduate qualifications that are taught and examined in English.

We’ll run the consultation for eight weeks to give everyone plenty of time to have their say, but also to ensure we can develop and implement any new proposals as quickly as possible.

Thank you

We know some people have wanted us to move faster with this review, especially given the significant workforce pressures there are in health and care at the moment. However, it’s essential we take the time to get this right and don’t act precipitously. This is because our regulatory policies are a matter of public safety and while it’s clear there’s an appetite for change, as yet there’s no clear consensus on what those changes should be. We also have a statutory duty to consult.

We’re grateful to everyone who’s shared their initial views with us about the fairness and reliability of our current approach, and what they’d like to see change and why. Now it’s going to be open to everyone to have their say through our consultation.

To make sure you don’t miss it, keep an eye on our website and social media channels over the coming weeks, and subscribe to our newsletters to stay informed.


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