latest health care news


NMC considers change to health-focused language testing

Changes to English language testing for nurses and midwives will be further investigated by the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC), it has been revealed.

In the organisation’s latest board papers, though it stated that the current system of testing, called the International English Language Test System (IELTS) was still fit for purpose, the NMC said that other systems were being considered.

It follows the Royal College of Surgeons (RCS) warning last year that a lack of clinical language tests for doctors in the EU was ‘putting patient safety at risk’. And in June last year, the NMC also said that it was to amend the IELTS requirements for nurses and midwives coming on to the register from overseas and within the European Economic Area. 

The regulator noted that some stakeholders have suggested that a language test which incorporates the clinical and social skills needed by nurses and midwives would be more appropriate than IELTS.

In light of this, the NMC said two options to consider are: to either develop an entirely new test for workers or to adapt an existing language test focused around healthcare.

Other tests which assess the clinical and social aspects of language skills include the Occupational English Test (OET) that is recognised in over 20 regulatory bodies in countries like Australia, New Zealand and Singapore. This test assesses the language proficiency of a range of health care professionals including nurses and midwives as well as doctors and pharmacists.

Another test being considered is the Canadian English Language Assessment for Nurses (CELBAN) which is developed solely for nurses, but could also be used with midwives.

It was also noted that stakeholder feedback shows that there is general support for the overall level being IELTS set at 7.0, but with flexibility in individual domain scores. It added that it may undertake further research to explore why the Writing domain consistently scores lower and what the impact of lowering it to 6.5 would be.

The report stated: “The top two non-EEA country sources for registrants with the NMC in 2015–2016 were the Philippines (63.8% of non-EEA) and India (23.3%). The British Council has confirmed to us that a standard of 6.5 for Writing, a requirement for level 7.0 in other domains and an overall score of 7.0 would mean that ‘many’ more candidates from these two countries would achieve our standard.”

The NMC added it will further explore the Writing element of IELTS and the evidence base for any change.

In conclusion, the report recommended that the council develop improved signposting and support from the NMC in relation to preparation for the IELTS test, including gathering and sharing best practice from employers, and exploring a new strategic solution considering in particular the OET.

Have you got a story to tell? Would you like to become an NHE columnist? If so, click here.   


Elmon M Paul   06/07/2017 at 06:34

At first, opting OET or other rest would be a bizarre idea at the moment in my opinion. This is clearly due to the fact that people has to study such courses and have pass it. Which is a painstakingly slow process. However, the most suitable panacea is that reducing the IELTS score of writting module from 7 to 6.5 perhaps seems to be an ideal solution. I think still IELTS is comprehensive exam. The only barrier we do have is writting score. (7).

Add your comment


national health executive tv

more videos >

featured articles

View all News

last word

Your personality, your leadership

Your personality, your leadership

Deirdre Wallace, clinical skills manager at UCL Medical School, discusses the importance of learning about leadership and self while at medical school. Approximately five years ago, I was charg more > more last word articles >

health service focus

View all News


We must ensure every STP succeeds

30/08/2017We must ensure every STP succeeds

Niall Dickson, chief executive of the NHS Confederation, considers what els... more >
Changing our digital culture and safeguarding patient data

08/08/2017Changing our digital culture and safeguarding patient data

Joanna Smith, chief information officer at Royal Brompton & Harefield N... more >


Improving care at the touch of a screen

08/08/2017Improving care at the touch of a screen

When it comes to dementia, having a calm and safe environment can have a su... more >
681 149x260 NHE Subscribe button

the scalpel's daily blog

Ensuring quality in the new NHS

11/09/2017Ensuring quality in the new NHS

Dr Marion Andrews-Evans, member of the NHS Clinical Commissioners (NHSCC) Nurses Forum steering group and executive nurse & quality lead at NHS Gloucestershire CCG, sings ... more >
read more blog posts from 'the scalpel' >

healthcare events

events calendar


September 2017

mon tue wed thu fri sat sun
28 29 30 31 1 2 3
4 5 6 7 8 9 10
11 12 13 14 15 16 17
18 19 20 21 22 23 24
25 26 27 28 29 30 1
2 3 4 5 6 7 8

editor's comment

13/06/2017Tackling the major challenges facing the NHS

As you will have gathered from the front cover, a theme that runs throughout this edition of NHE is about empowering and involving the workforce in order to deliver innovative change across the system.  Professor Jane Dacre, president of the Royal College of Physicians, highlights on page 16 the importance of sustainability and transformation partnerships/plans (STPs) being implemented and delivered with clinical input at their core.  And the Health Foundation’s... read more >