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.

We keep all our regulatory standards and requirements under regular review. And so we looked at how we make sure nurses, midwives and nursing associates have good enough English to join our register.

How can people prove they are competent in English at the moment?

In 2021–2022, more than 23,000 internationally trained professionals joined our register, and the vast majority had taken an English language test to do so. 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.

Other ways to show us you have strong language skills are through having trained in English, or practised in an English-speaking country as a registered nursing or midwifery professional.

What we’ve heard so far

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 proportionate for everyone. It’s a priority for us to make sure they are.

Our pre-consultation engagement started with a roundtable event in November 2021. 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 requirements.

We’re grateful to everyone who’s shared their views with us about what they’d like to see change and why. Now our Council will review the outcome of the consultation at its meeting on 28 September 2022.

Next steps

This consultation closed on 12 August at 23:59. We are taking some time to properly consider what everyone has told us. The earliest we expect to introduce changes is autumn 2022.

Additional documents

Additional resources have been developed as part of the consultation that you may find helpful when considering your response:

Public consultation document (English)

Public consultation document (Welsh)

NMC literature review document

Test combining examples

OET report