The current regulations require foreign nurses to achieve a band 7 score in all four skills tested in the academic IELTS.
According to official statistics, native speakers average a 6.3 on the IELTS writing task (see Gazette June 2017).
The petition, which now has nearly 9,500 signatures, asks for the required IELTS score to be lowered to 6.5, and for the general IELTS to be used instead of the academic.
Nurses who have studied in UK universities or have more than three years’ experience in the UK should also be exempt, it says.
‘The language requirement remains a significant barrier to registering with the NMC’, said nurse Febin Cyriac, who started the petition in 2014.
Back then, EU nurses were exempt from the English language requirement. After this was extended to cover them in January 2016, the NMC saw a 96 per cent drop in registrations from EU staff in the space of a year.
In a recent press release, the NMC said that the number of nurses from the EU is still falling. It quotes the introduction of English language requirements and uncertainty over Brexit as the possible cause of the drop.
An NMC spokesperson told the Gazette last month that they were looking at the issue. They said they were aware of the concerns but did not have any ‘hard evidence’ yet which justified a change.