NMC plans to make it easier for nurses to re-join the register

The cost of tests to join NMC register for overseas applicants are also to be cut

Matt Bodell
22 March 2019
Nursing university lecture

The Nursing and Midwifery Council have announced changes to competency testing and return to practice courses.

Those wanting to re-join the register following a career break will be able to undertake a test of competence rather than undertake a return to practice course, the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) has announced.


Where people do choose a return to practice course, the NMC will no longer state the minimum length of the course. Educators will now be able to consider the skills and experience of the applicants and design the courses accordingly, increasing flexibility.

Additionally, the cost of the professional test of competence that overseas nurses, midwives and nursing associates must take to work in the UK reduce in price.

The change, agreed with the organisations who provide the test, will take effect on 1 April 2019 – reducing the cost of the computer-based test from £130 to £90; the full cost of the practical examination from £992 to £794 and the resit cost of the practical examination from £496 to £397.

‘Challenging times’.

Andrea Sutcliffe, Chief Executive and Registrar at the NMC, said: “As today’s report from the Health Foundation, King’s Fund and Nuffield Trust lays bare; these are challenging times for health and social care with high vacancy and turnover rates – including over 40,000 current vacant nursing posts in the NHS in England alone – and around 5,000 nursing vacancies in social care.


We know this has a direct and too often detrimental impact on the environment that nurses, midwives and nursing associates work in and the quality and experience of care people receive.

By proposing a new way for even more people to get back to work after a break, and reducing the cost of the overseas test, we can enhance the numbers of professionals with the right skills coming onto our register. These are people we know are committed to providing the best and safest care possible.

I hope both of these changes show that the NMC is playing its part in positively addressing the nursing and midwifery shortages that exist in health services, adult social care services and within local communities across the UK.”

‘A welcome change’.

Royal College of Nursing Professional Associate Director of Nursing (Education and Learning) Stephanie Aiken said: “Nurses and midwives from all over the world play a vital part in our NHS workforce. Anything that can reduce the cost for registered nurses from overseas wanting to join this workforce has to be welcomed.


“The RCN called for these changes to the process of applying to join the UK register after work with members and international nursing applicants identified problems.

“The additional proposals aimed at making it easier for those wanting to re-join the register following a career break are also a positive move which will hopefully encourage people back into nursing.

“With nearly 40,000 nursing vacancies in the NHS in England alone we urgently need investment to close the gap and ensure we have enough staff to provide safe and effective care for patients”.

UPDATE (22/03/2019 16:30): The title of this post was changed from ‘Return to practice courses to be replaced with clinical competency testing’ as it was deemed to be inaccurate.