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Language controls for overseas nurses proposed

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The NMC and other professional bodies could be allowed to conduct language checks for overseas healthcare workers, under new proposals from the four UK health departments.

The Department of Health will launch a consultation on the proposals in 2015. Under the plans, which would change existing legislation, nurses and midwives from the EU would face tests to ensure that they have a sufficient grasp of English to safely practice in the UK.

Non-EU applicants, as well as doctors from the EU, are already required to undertake language tests. The NMC would also be allowed to include language skills as part of a Fitness to Practice assessment for nurses and midwives already working. The organisation changed the registration procedure for overseas nurses in September, in an attempt to streamline the process.

The government aims to have the proposed legislative change approved by the end of the current parliament in May 2015. As the proposals include legislative change concerning Scotland, approval will also be needed from the Scottish Government.

An NMC spokesperson said: 'The NMC currently has no powers to check the English language skills of nurses and midwives who trained in Europe before they join the register. We have been pressing for this to change and we welcome this consultation. We will now take time to consider the impact of the proposed changes before we respond to the consultation.'

The NMC is also seeking change to legislation concerning their Fitness to Practice procedures, which they say would allow them to reduce the number of cases proceeding to the costly final hearing stage.

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