European nurses will now be able to enjoy ‘additional flexibility’ in the exams they take while applying to work in the UK, according to the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC).
By increasing the number of times a nurse or midwife can sit the Objective Structured Clinical Examination (OCSE), the NMC hopes to take pressure off nurses from the European Union (EU) and European Economic Area (EEA) who may be in the UK on time-sensitive visas while they apply.
Originally, any nurse who failed the OSCE on their first go could re-sit ten days later. If they failed a second time, their application was closed and they could not begin again for another six months. Candidates on Tier 2 immigration visas are unlikely to have six months on their visa if they fail so the NMC will now allow them to re-sit a third time three months later.
This change will bring the overseas registration process in line with the eight month time limit permitted by Tier 2 visas, allowing applicants more chance to successfully complete their OSCE.
NMC chief executive Jackie Smith said: ‘We want to ensure that all nurses and midwives with the right skills and knowledge can join our register regardless of where they were trained. Coming to work in a new country can be daunting and we want to make it is as straightforward as possible for nurses and midwives to demonstrate that they can meet the standards required to work in the UK.
‘We have listened carefully to feedback from our stakeholders and introduced changes which will help to streamline the process for those coming from overseas allowing them to focus on what matters most – sitting their exams.’
The NHS has recently experienced a mass exodus of EU nurses in the wake of Brexit, with 2,700 leaving the NMC register in 2016.
In a bid to plug shortages, the Royal College of Nursing has also appealed for non-EU healthcare staff in both the NHS and other providers to be made exempt from a £1,000 yearly visa charge in place for all non-EU workers in the UK.