Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) to introduce English language checks from January 2016

25 August 2015

On 21 August the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) closed its consultation on introducing new English language checks for nurses and midwives who trained in the EU. 

Currently, all non-EU trained applicants must achieve a suitably high score on the International English Language Training System, but the NMC is unable to request proof of English language skills for those who trained in Europe. 

Under the new policy, nurses and midwives from the EU applying for registration with the NMC, or seeking readmission to the register following a lapse of registration, will need to satisfy the NMC that they have a sufficient grasp of English to be able to practise safely and efficiently in the UK.

Following a review of the consultation response, the NMC will finalise their policy and guidance in October, with updated legislation and changes to the registration process coming into effect in January 2016. 

This is a very sensible change, indeed it is surprising that the NMC is not currently able to test the language skills of nurses from Europe.  There should be no difference in the language requirements between a nurse from France and a nurse from Africa: the risks for patients in having a nurse who cannot communicate effectively in English are clearly the same regardless of that nurse’s country of origin. 

By way of comparison, the General Medical Council (GMC) says that it will look at applications from European doctors and may ask them to provide evidence that they have the necessary knowledge of English.

Nurses who are referred to the NMC in relation to allegations of poor performance may often actually be struggling to practise effectively because of language difficulties.  It will be interesting to see whether the new registration process will eventually lead to a decrease in the number of fitness to practise referrals. 

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