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Overseas Nurses in the UK

In past years there was a great shortage of qualified nurses in the UK (in both the NHS and the independent sector). There were two contributing factors; the age of the current nursing work force; and the fact that the UK was losing qualified nurses to other countries, notably the USA. Although Australia is now seeking to recruit from the UK because it also has an aging population issue.

Ethical Recruitment

Nursing in the UK has historically been attractive to nurses from developing countries. Since the late 1990's This resulted in a drain on skilled healthcare workers from developing countries. This was considered to be such a significant problem in the UK and internationally that the Department of Health (DH) went as far as creating a UK Code of Practice for International Recruitment of healthcare professionals. The DH has a list of developing countries that the NHS, and any agencies that have signed up to this Code of Practice, must not actively recruit from.

More recently there has been a change in the financial management of the NHS with drastically reduced support from central government. The biggest cost across the NHS is the cost of staffing. Trusts across the UK are making huge cuts in the provision of planned and ongoing healthcare services. This has resulted in nursing redundancies and posts simply not being advertised along with a squeeze on the use of nursing agencies.

Band 5 and 6 Nurses removed from the Shortage Occupation List

The effect on overseas nursing applicants is, that outside of particualr specialities, nursing has been taken off of the "shortage occupation list". This means that employers with Band 5 and 6 nursing posts have to prove that they could not fill the vacancy from nurses already resident in the UK or nationals of the wider European Economic Area (EEA)

Overseas nurses on an existing contract will not be affected until their contract or visa become due for renewal. The DH state on their website "There are arrangements within the work permit rules to allow an employer to seek an extension of a work permit without needing to test the resident labour market. However, employers will not be able to recruit to a vacant post without first placing an advert within the UK."

Overseas Nursing Programme (ONP) will shortly be replaced by a new Test of Competence

The ONP is being replaced by a two part Test of Competence: a computer-based multiple-choice examination and a practical structured clinical examination (OSCE).

The computer-based multiple-choice examination will be accessible in many countries around the world including those where significant numbers of non-EU/EEA educated nurses and midwives are recruited to the UK. A list of available locations will be published as part of the revised process. Nurses and midwives eligible for the test who are living in the UK will be able to access the test here. Pearson Vue, a computer-based exam provider, will deliver the test of competence at the various global locations on our behalf.

The practical exam (OSCE) will always be held in the UK, initially at a test centre at the University of Northampton. After an initial bedding-in period this will subsequently be broadened out to encompass more centres.

For information from the NMC please click here.

Final details are yet to be published. Until the change the following is still relevent:

Provided you are accepted and meet the minimum standards to be accepted on the NMC register, as a nurse you will be required to undertake the Overseas Nursing Programme, if you have trained outside of the EEA. Provided you are accepted and meet the minimum standards to be accepted on the NMC register, as a nurse you will be required to undertake the Overseas Nursing Programme, if you have trained outside of the EEA.

Some employers are able to provide the Overseas Nursing Programme and will arrange to register you to start on the programme upon production of your NMC decision letter, as soon as you arrive in the UK.

Whilst you complete the Overseas Nursing Programme and obtain your NMC registration, certain employers are able to offer you work as an ATA (Auxiliary Trained Abroad) or a HCA (Healthcare Assistant), provided your registration documents are all in order. The Overseas Nursing Programme is not widely available in the UK and therefore the NMC advise against travelling to the UK unless you are registered on an ONP Programme. See a list of ONP course providers below.

The programme assesses your ability to practice in the UK healthcare environment. It consists if 20 days protected learning time, plus, where appropriate a period of supervised practice. Your decision letter will confirm what parts of the programme you must undertake. If you have had educational and practical experience in your home country that closely matches UK requirements for entry to the Register, you will only have to take the 20 protected learning days.

Stages of Registration

Registration Stage 1

When you apply you will need to pay the NMC an administration fee. You should then return the initial application form with your choice of registration tickets. You should also send the NMC certified (signed by a solicitor) photocopies of your:

  • Your registration certificate
  • Your passport (details page)
  • Your birth certificate

Marriage, civil partnership or deed poll certificate (if you don’t use the name on your birth certificate).

You should also send your International English Language Testing System (IELTS) candidate number and test score.

Registration Stage 2

When the NMC receive the documents listed above and the required fee, they will send you an application pack, which contains.

  • Application form
  • Post-registration experience form
  • Two employment references
  • Transcript of training form
  • Registration authority / licensing body form

This will be supported by detailed information on how to complete the forms and provide the information the NMC require. Further details can be found from the NMC booklet called “Registering as a nurse or midwife in the United Kingdom (for applicants from outside the European Economic Area) Download PDF (57.1Kb).

ONP Course list

ONP Courses link - Current list of ONP course providers

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Wessex Care Jobs Registered Nurses RGN RMN HCAs Community Support Assistants & Welfare Assistants