The UK's Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) has announced a freeze on the registration of nurses from outside Europe after an internal audit found that its systems for verifying qualifications of foreign applicants were inadequate. The freeze has already prevented 160 nurses from taking up work in the UK's National Health Service (NHS) in the last month. Nurses including those from outside the European Economic Area cannot work in the NHS unless they have been registered with the NMC.
They will also require a UK visa. If they come under Tier 2 of the UK's points-based visa system, they will need to have a job offer from a UK employer which is licensed to sponsor Tier 2 visa applicants. Some qualified nurses, particularly those from Australia, Canada and New Zealand with a grandparent born in the UK, can apply to come to the UK with a UK ancestry visa.
However, the first step is to become registered with the NMC. The NMC website claims 'if nurses or midwives trained in countries outside the European Union (EU) or European Economic Area (EEA) have been admitted to our register, you can be satisfied that we have been able to check the education and practice experience of the new applicants. We will also have been able to verify their good character and language competence.
Not currently able to process applicationsHowever, just below these words it says 'We are not currently able to process applications from outside the EU and EEA and are reviewing our policies in this area'.
An NMC spokeswoman told UK newspaper The Daily Telegraph 'The quality of information supplied in some cases is not proof of fraud but does not give us the level of confidence we would want'. These problems emerged in February. No fake documentation has yet been found but the doubts mean that it is not considered safe to continue with registrations.
Katherine Murphy of the UK's Patients Association congratulated the NMC on admitting the problem but said that the public would be concerned. She asked why 'if supermarkets can check these kinds of documents before employing someone, why can't the NMC?'
NMC not able to protect the publicDr Peter Carter of the Royal College of Nursing told The Telegraph 'The NMC's main job is to protect the public. It would seem that they are having problems doing this. We are naturally concerned that the NMC has felt a need to stop registering foreign nurses. They are an important addition to the NHS but public protection is the most important issue'.
The NMC is the UK's main regulator for nurses and midwives. It approves about 1,000 applications from outside the European Economic Area every year, authorising applicants to work in the NHS. These are now suspended pending a review.
The NMC is also the main regulator for UK and EU-resident nurses and has the power to 'strike nurses off' thereby banning them from working in the UK. Last month, the NMC was told after an audit that there was a 'red' warning about its register of nurses because warnings about misconduct were not appearing when prospective employers searched the register.
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