Foreign nurses to undergo shorter tests for UK jobs

Foreign nurses to undergo shorter tests for UK jobs

Britain has relaxed rules for employment of foreign nurses, including from India, to try and plug a severe shortage in the country's health system.

Overseas applicants will now face shorter computer-based tests in simulated clinical scenarios from October to check they are fit to work in the UK, and no longer require a supervised work placement which could last up to three months.

"This will ensure the hundreds of nurses and midwives who trained overseas and wish to practise in the UK are assessed in a proportionate and robust way, in order to protect the public," said Nursing and Midwifery Council in a statement.

The NMC feels the current system needs to change as it is not fast enough for employers, who need to recruit quickly.

The country's National Health Scheme (NHS) relies heavily on foreign staff and has been trying to plug a staffing crisis caused by the loss of 5,000 nurses since 2010.

At present, foreign nurses must apply to the NMC to become a registered nurse before they can legally work in the UK and every nurse from outside the EU must complete the Overseas Nurses Programme (ONP).

The new system, planned to be launched in October, will consist of two parts: a multiple-choice scenario-based secure computer-based examination, and a practical objective structured clinical examination (OSCE).

"The new system will not replace the need for employers to ensure that the staff they recruit display the behaviours, skills and knowledge necessary for the specific role to which they are recruited, and provide further support and development as required," stressed NMC chief executive Jackie Smith.

"This approach to overseas registration is an internationally recognised and rigorous way of ensuring that those applying for registration who trained overseas are able to practise safely and effectively in the UK," she added.

According to latest figures, the highest number of applications for nursing jobs come from the Phillippines, 13,750, followed by India at 2,459.

Currently nurses and midwives who have trained overseas make up about 10 per cent of the workforce registered to work in the UK and around 1,000 nurses a year come to work in the UK from outside the EU. However, the Patients Association lobby group sounded a note of caution about the move to relax the rules.

"Adequate periods of close supervision and monitoring are a key part of this process. We cannot allow quick fix solutions to put patient safety at risk," said Katherine Murphy, chief executive of Patients Association.

The number of foreign nurses coming to Britain to work has doubled since 2010 with the total number of nurses who registered to work in Britain after receiving their training abroad rising from 2,520 in 2010 to 6,228 last year, according to official figures.

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