Specialist Language Courses

SLC Article on IELTS for Nurses in National Health Executive Magazine


We’re delighted to have had an article published in the National Health Magazine focusing on how the IELTS 7.0 requirement is impacting on recruiting nurses from the EU.

Given the triggering of Article 50 and the ongoing uncertainty surrounding the status of EU workers, the impact of this challenging language requirement is harder than it would have been otherwise, further squeezing a declining supply of international nurses at a time of significant shortages across the NHS.

The article draws on the research report we published in January, where we spoke to Trusts around the country about how they were experiencing the effects of new language requirement. Of the Trusts who were recruiting internationally, there was general agreement that asking nurses to pass such a tough language test – especially one which was academically-focused rather than nursing-focused – was slowing recruitment down significantly. And not just for nurses from the EU, but also for those coming from further afield where English levels tend to be very good, such as the Philippines and India.

“What we’ve found is that we’re able to hire, from Europe, extremely competent clinical staff, who are very good at their job, that we’re simply not able to hire because they’re not able to get themselves through the IELTS papers.”

“We try to find nurses that have already got an IELTS Certificate; obviously that significantly narrows our pool of candidates, and it becomes then increasingly difficult, especially if you are looking for specialist nurses; it’s a small pool anyway, so you’re looking for a particular specialism with the added bonus of having an IELTS qualification, then you’re fishing then in a very, very small pool.”

The findings articulated in the article are also supported by the round table we chaired recently to discuss the English requirements, attended by a number of NHS Trusts as well as international healthcare recruitment company HCL and the largest IELTS testing centre in Europe, International House London.

Trusts expressed their frustration with the level and content of the test, the additional time and cost it added to international recruitment, and their lack of understanding as to why the NMC set this particular test at this level and why no alternatives were looked at. Everyone acknowledges in principle that an English test to ensure nurses are able to deliver safe and effective care in

SLC works with multiple NHS Trusts, private healthcare groups and international recruitment companies, preparing hundreds of candidates around the world to achieve the required 7.0 in the academic IELTS test. We understand very well what the timelines and costs are for clients and see how difficult it can be for nurses to learn the academic English language, techniques and exam strategies to score what they need.

Given the current shortage in trained nurses, perhaps it is time for the NMC to speak to stakeholders who have been affected and analyse what potential alternatives are. As Medical English and Exam Preparation specialists, we would be more than happy to discuss our experience so far and look at a range of options to ensure international medical professionals can communicate at the level necessary to provide the excellent care the NHS is famous for.

Article copyright National Health Executive, @nhenews.