NMC announces further changes to help boost nursing and midwifery workforce

21 March 2019

  • Cost of test to join NMC register for overseas applicants to be cut
  • Proposed additional route for people to return to work after a career break

The cost of the professional test of competence that overseas nurses, midwives and nursing associates must take to work in the UK will reduce by more than 20 percent, the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) has announced.

The change, agreed with the organisations who provide the test, will take effect on 1 April 2019 – reducing the cost of the computer-based test from £130 to £90; the full cost of the practical examination from £992 to £794 and the resit cost of the practical examination from £496 to £397.

At a time when many of the ambitions for health and social care developments rely on nurses, midwives and nursing associates in order to be a success, this is one of a number of new proposed measures from the NMC to make it as straightforward and cost effective as possible for people with the right skills to join its register.

Additional new proposals would also see those wanting to re-join the register following a career break being able to choose a test of competence to demonstrate that their skills and knowledge are up to date, rather than undertake a course, which can take between three and 12 months to complete.

Furthermore, where people do choose a return to practice course, the NMC will no longer state the minimum length of the course. Educators will now be able to consider the skills and experience of the applicants and design the courses accordingly, increasing flexibility.

The NMC Council will consider the return to practice proposals at its meeting on Wednesday 27 March.

Andrea Sutcliffe, Chief Executive and Registrar at the NMC, said:

“As today’s report from the Health Foundation, King’s Fund and Nuffield Trust lays bare; these are challenging times for health and social care with high vacancy and turnover rates – including over 40,000 current vacant nursing posts in the NHS in England alone – and around 5,000 nursing vacancies in social care.

We know this has a direct and too often detrimental impact on the environment that nurses, midwives and nursing associates work in and the quality and experience of care people receive.

By proposing a new way for even more people to get back to work after a break, and reducing the cost of the overseas test, we can enhance the numbers of professionals with the right skills coming onto our register. These are people we know are committed to providing the best and safest care possible.

I hope both of these changes show that the NMC is playing its part in positively addressing the nursing and midwifery shortages that exist in health services, adult social care services and within local communities across the UK.”

Danny Mortimer, Chief Executive of NHS Employers, said:

“We know NHS organisations will need to continue to recruit more nurses from outside the UK as well as increase the UK supply. The openness of the NMC during the last 18 months to deliver changes to their processes has been welcomed by employers.

The planned reductions in test fees and the proposed changes to how nurses and midwives can re-enter the register after a break from practice will be welcome news to our teams and patients. Including suitable nurses and midwives on the register as quickly as possible whilst upholding the necessary standards is critical in a competitive global market for nurses.

Process improvement is continuous and NHS Employers looks forward to working closely with the NMC on the different reviews underway.”

As part of its drive for consistency and quality assurance, the NMC will also be introducing a new test of competence assurance panel. A group of experienced nurses, midwives and other health and care professionals, will use their broad range of expertise to ensure consistency of tests across different test centres.

These changes are part of an ongoing review to improve the experience of those wanting to join the NMC’s register. They will help to ensure that applicants with the right skills and knowledge can join the UK workforce as quickly as possible while ensuring high standards of care.


Notes to Editors

1. Read further information about the NMC’s proposed changes relating to return to practice to help boost the nursing and midwifery workforce.

2. There are around 690,000 nurses and midwives, and nursing associates for England only, registered with the NMC to work in the UK. Around 10% of those are from overseas (outside the EU).

3. Nurses, midwives and nursing associates trained outside the EU currently take a two part test of competence. This includes a computer-based test (CBT) and practical examination known as the Objective Structure Clinical Examination (OSCE)

4. The changes to the test of competence are part of an ongoing review to improve the experience of those applying to join the register from overseas.

• Last year the NMC made changes that enabled nurses and midwives from outside the EU to apply to work in the UK immediately after qualifying, rather than a 12 month waiting period. Read more about the changes.

• Last year the NMC also made changes to the requirements for nurses and midwives from outside the EU taking the Internal English Language Test System (IELTS) and improved the supporting information available to applicants. Read more about the changes to requirements.