English Language Testing System (IELTS)

Posted On 24 Aug 2017

English Language Testing System (IELTS)

The (IELTS) has been a cause for concern for a number of recruitment agencies recruiting foreign Doctors and Nurses into the NHS

IELTS is one of the main English language tests in the world and is used across a number of sectors and countries. The testing regime is a general one and does not feature any clinical content.
 
It is widely thought from inside the NHS (hospital bosses) and outside the NHS (recruitment agencies and potential staff) that the level required to pass IELTS should be lowered as there has been very high failure rates. However, the Nursing and Midwifery Council has rejected this, citing its responsibilities to the safety and protection of the public.
 
My governing body the Recruitment and Employment Confederation has had regular discussions with the NMC about these concerns, and has suggested possible alternative options including the use of a new or alternative test which would include clinical content and thereby increase its credibility to both employers and the NMC.
 
In May there was a meeting between the Department of Health, chief nurses from NHS England, NHS Improvement and Health Education England, together with the Royal College of Nursing and the NMC agreed to a review of its approach to language testing.

On the 5th of July the NMC presented the following outcome of the review

  • EEA trained nurses are able to demonstrate equivalence to IELTS if they can show that they practiced or have been taught mainly in English. The NMC is now actively exploring if this ‘equivalence’ can be extended alongside other forms of assurance to non-EEA nurses.
  • There is clear evidence that the written element of IELTS is the most difficult part of the test.  The NMC is considering the evidence base for a change on this element and will develop proposals over the summer.

The NMC will also explore the potential for alternative testing approaches with a strong preference for greater clinical content. This will be a longer term piece of work.

It is likely that any changes would begin towards the end of this calendar year or early in 2018. 

Potentially there is a real willingness from the NMC to critically review language testing and to implement improvements as quickly as possible, without compromising patient safety.

Posted in Occupational Health

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