Changes to IELTS for Nurses in 2023

Feb 27, 2023

As a qualified Nurse, you can take an exciting new step in your career by moving to the UK. This is a country that offers amazing opportunities for Nurses, as well as providing a great selection of other healthcare jobs.

Before being able to work in the UK as a Nurse, you’ll have to register with the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC). The NMC application process includes an English language test using the International English Language Testing System (IELTS).

Including language testing in the registration process is to ensure all Nurses working in the country can provide a safe and effective level of  .

In addition to the IELTS exam, there are other important factors for you to be aware of as an international Nurse. We’ve put together The Nurses Guide to Living and Working in the UK  so that you can find all of the information in one place!

What is the Nursing and Midwifery Council?

The NMC is responsible for keeping track of Nurses and Midwives in the UK. Its main roles are to keep a register of all Nurses and Midwives working in the country, as well as to set professional standards, ensure the quality of healthcare education and investigate complaints made against Nurses and Midwives.

The NMC is overseen by the Professional Standards Authority for Health and Social Care, which reviews its performance annually.

As of March 2022, there were 704,520 Nurses registered to work in the UK, up from 681,525 the previous year. Nearly half of the Nurses who registered in the year to March were overseas applicants, with 22,745 registrants coming from outside the EU — a huge increase from 9,152 the previous year.

In total, there are 82,874 non-British Nurses working in the UK, with 174 different nationalities represented among this group.

IELTS English Language Test for Nurses

Before going ahead with your application to the NMC, you must pass the Academic IELTS exam.

All overseas applicants have to take this test unless the applicant has worked in an English-speaking country for at least a year.

To have your application to the NMC accepted, an IELTS score of at least 7 must be achieved in the reading, listening and speaking tests, with 6.5 required in the writing test and 7 overall.

If you fail the test the first time, then don’t worry! You can try again and

Once you’ve passed your exam, you have two years to make an application to the NMC. After two years, you’ll need to take the IELTS exam again if you want to proceed.

Changes to IELTS for Nurses in 2023

in 2022 to improve the IELTS experience for Nurses. Although not all the proposals passed, certain changes have been made.

The first change is that if you fail the test, a second one can be taken up to 12 months later, whereas previously it had to be done within six months. This gives you a better chance to improve your skills before trying again. The accepted minimum score when combining two test attempts has also been adjusted. This new system of scoring allows for more flexibility without compromising standards.

The second change means your employer can provide evidence of your level of English if you narrowly miss out on a pass. This only applies if you completed your Nurse training in English in a country where English is not the majority language.

Support from your employer is a great way to show that you have the right level of English to do the job well, even if your test scores don’t quite show this.

The NMC Consultation on English Language Requirements

The changes to IELTS for Nurses are the result of an eight-week consultation launched by the NMC.

More than 34,000 people responded to the consultation, sharing their thoughts and opinions on how the system could be improved. There were two main topics up for discussion. Firstly, the NMC’s approach to testing and, secondly, if additional evidence should be considered during the testing process.

Most people agreed that a high level of English is necessary for clear communication, both between professionals and with patients.

Speaking on the changes, Matthew McClelland, Executive Director of Strategy and Insight at the NMC, said, “I’m extremely grateful to everyone who took the time to respond to our consultation. 34,000 responses is an exceptional number and show just how important it is to people that we get our English language requirements right.

“We’ve considered all responses thoroughly, and believe these proposals will ensure that our requirements are fair and reliable for everyone.

“Internationally trained professionals make a vital contribution to safe, effective and kind nursing and midwifery across the UK. It is essential for public safety that Nursing and Midwifery professionals have effective English language skills and can communicate safely with each other and those they care for.”

Potential Future Changes to IELTS by the NMC

The NMC has shared that additional updates could be made in the future for Nurses who have a post-graduate degree. This adaptation to the rules would only apply to Nurses who studied in English and would mean this type of qualification could be used as supporting evidence.

Although there was a lot of support for the post-graduate proposal, the NMC decided there are issues that still need to be considered, stating it will make a recommendation at a later date.

Moving to the UK to Work as a Nurse

If Nursing in the UK is something you are looking to achieve, you’ll find that it’s an extremely rewarding career move and one that appeals to many people for numerous reasons. If this international ambition is on your radar, then you’ll want to make the process as simple and stress-free as possible.

Luckily for you, we have the experience and knowledge to support you during this time, helping to ensure your transition into the country is smooth.

For several years, we have been working with international and UK Nursing staff to fill healthcare jobs in both the public and private sectors. Integrity and transparency are at the core of everything we do, allowing us to become one of the best Nursing recruitment agencies in the country.

Contact us today to get the ball rolling with your NMC registration process and your move to the UK.