NMC proposes relaxing English language rules for overseas nurses

The Occupational English Test (OET) requirement will change from a B (350-440) to a C+ (300-340). 

Matt Bodell
20 November 2019
Nurse doing test

English language testing is often cited as a barrier to joining the register.

English language requirements for overseas nurses could be relaxed, according to proposals by the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC).


Proposed changes include removing the five-year limit on using nursing and midwifery qualifications taught in English as evidence of a person’s English language skill.

They would also see the Occupational English Test (OET) writing domain score requirement change from a B (350-440) to a C+ (300-340) – bringing it in line with the written section of the International English Language Testing System (IELTS).

The OET is an international English language test that assesses the language communication skills of healthcare professionals who seek to register and practice in an English-speaking environment.

‘Common sense changes’.

High expectations on English language testing is commonly cited as a barrier to entry to the register by overseas nurses wanting to work as a nurse in the UK.


The regulator claims the “proposed evidence-based changes will help to streamline the process” for those wanting to join the register while simultaneously maintaining patient safety.

Advice from a language and linguistics expert at the University of Essex was sought over the proposals by the regulator.

Emma Broadbent, Director for Registration and Revalidation for the NMC, said: “These common sense changes are in line with the NMC’s commitment to better, safer care and will continue to ensure that only those nurses, midwives and nursing associates with the right skills, knowledge and command of English are able to join and re-join our register.”

These changes will go to the NMC Council for approval on 27 November 2019.


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