At SLC, we are proud to have been working with hundreds of EU nurses and doctors coming to work in the UK, either through our online Medical English courses or through our IELTS test preparation programmes. We see how committed they are and what a vital contribution they make to healthcare in this country, not just in NHS Trust hospitals, but also in care homes, nursing homes and private clinics and hospitals around the UK.
Staff Shortages and an Immigration Points System
Understandably, a vote for Brexit has caused considerable levels of concern among EU workers in the UK, especially as their status has not yet been guaranteed by the government. However, whatever the outcome, there are massive shortages in nurses – an estimated 25,000 vacancies and counting – and nowhere near those numbers coming through the UK training system. As a result, international nurses and doctors are needed more than ever before.
If a points system is introduced in the UK, such as in Australia and Canada, then nurses and doctors must similarly be on it. Nurses are on the UK shortage occupation list right now and will continue to be in the foreseeable future, as are specialist doctors, such as those working in A&E and paediatrics.
English Language Concerns
This issue of English language skills for overseas nurses and doctors was raised during the referendum campaigns. However, the criteria for both EU and non-EU medical professionals have been tightened recently, with all nurses required to score an advanced level 7.0 in the international IELTS test and doctors now needing 7.5. To give this some context, a score of 7.0 is equivalent to what Oxford University requires their international degree programme applicants to have.
Having the right English language skills is part of both the Australian and Canadian requirements, so we anticipate that this will also be the case if a similar system is brought in for EU workers. For medical professionals, these scores in the IELTS should easily be high enough to satisfy any concerns about the English level of current and future nurses and doctors coming to the UK.
Impact on English Language Courses
Therefore, there is no immediate impact on any of our Medical English or IELTS programmes running for EU nurses. And as Brexit is implemented over the next 2 years or more, nor should there be any significant changes over this time, and we are looking forward to training many more nurses and doctors to achieve their IELTS scores.
Visa processes may eventually change, so affecting the when and where of training – the current process for non-EU nurses is considerably longer and more costly than for EU nurses for example, so it is possible that EU nurses may ultimately have to go through a similar process. We are working hard to future-proof our English language training programmes to ensure they have the flexibility and robustness to meet any potential changes.
Having spoken to many contacts in healthcare, there seems to be a general consensus that we must both reassure EU medical professionals of their current status and work hard to ensure that they are able to continue to make such a valuable contribution to the growing demands of UK healthcare in the future. To quote Royal College of Nursing Chief Executive, Janet Davies:
“Many nurses from EU countries… should be reassured that we do not expect any changes to be made for some time. The RCN will continue to press… for a secure long-term supply of staff to keep patient care safe.”
At SLC, we are delighted to be able to support EU nurses achieve the level of English they need to practice safely and effectively. We hope to continue working with many more over the coming years.