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Impact of NMC's New English Language Requirement on Healthcare Sector

Registered General Nurses (RGNs) undergoing training

Here's how NMC's new English language requisite will affect caregivers

Ludwig Wittgenstein, an Austrian-British philosopher, once said, "The limits of my language are the limits of my world." Clear and effective communication is essential for providing high-quality care while also maintaining public trust in the healthcare professions. As a result, one of the most important factors to consider when choosing a career in the healthcare industry is language.
The Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) intends to change the English language requirements for those wishing to register with them. This plan, which is set to take effect in 2023, will standardise the minimum scores that the NMC will accept when combining test results. They will also extend the test retake period from six to twelve months. Applicants must also show proof of English language proficiency from their employers.

Why these changes?

Skilled healthcare professionals working in the UK who demonstrate English language competence in practise are narrowly missing out on the opportunity to join NMC due to their test scores.
Following several discussions and consultations with key partners, employers, trade unions, and professionals in 2021, the NMC recognised the importance of changing their English language requirements, leading to the revamping of terms. The council approved the change in September 2022, and the changes are expected to take effect in January 2023.

What effect will these modifications have on applicants?

The applicants will face two impacts:
1. Combining the applicant's test results together:
NMC currently accepts two types of language tests: academic International English Language Test System (IELTS) and Occupational English Test (OET). They test for four domains, and the required scores have not changed.

Table1: Current required score for English language test:

NMC currently accepts two types of language tests: IELTS and OET

This is the applicant's current expected score. The combined test score, on the other hand, will change slightly beginning in early 2023. The applicant must still achieve the required test scores for each domain, but no less than 0.5 (IELTS) or half a grade (OET) lower is acceptable.
In short, an applicant's scores can be combined as long as they achieve 6 (IELTS) or C/250 or higher (OET) in writing and 6.5 (IELTS) or C+/300 or higher (OET) in the other three domains.

Table2: New minimum scores for each part of the test

NMC will extend time to retake English skill exam from 6-12 months

Currently, the applicant must retake the test within six months of the first in order to combine the scores.
With new changes coming into force, NMC will extend this period from 6 to 12 months to allow for greater flexibility and more time to prepare before retaking the test.
2. Support by the employer
Beginning in 2023, NMC will accept supplementary supporting information from applicants' employers if they: narrowly miss a score in one of the four domains by 0.5 in the IELTS (6 for writing and 6.5 in the other domains) or half a grade in the OET (C/250 or above in writing and C+/300 or above in the other domains), or were trained and assessed in English in a country where English is not the majority language.
Applicants must have worked for their employer in a health and social care setting in the UK for a minimum of 12 months in the previous two years. The employer must complete a standard NMC form. The applicant's manager must be a registered NMC professional who can use this form to demonstrate the applicant's English language proficiency. It will also require the countersignature of a more senior NMC-registered professional employed by the same company. This supporting information, while helpful, does not guarantee that applicants will be accepted into NMC.
The Nurses Group sees NMC's new change in norms as a positive sign for nursing workers and an encouragement to individuals interested in a career in healthcare.

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