Nurses and midwives who trained outside Europe will have to pass tests before they are allowed to practice in the UK.
The Nursing and Midwifery Council are tightening up their registration scheme by introducing a competence-based exam. Currently, those who trained abroad simply have to work for three months in a UK care role before being registered.
Almost 5000 nurses from outside the EU have registered with the NMC over the past five years, the majority from India and the Far East.
Nursing unions are concerned that the change may be influenced by NHS trusts who want to cover staff shortages being allowed to recruit overseas more quickly.
Rather than work for three months, nurses will have a one-day assessment and a multiple choice test online to pass before being registered and the unions are concerned that could undermine the job security of existing staff.
But the NMC say the new process brings the profession into line with other regulators such as the General Medical Council.
Jackie Smith, NMC chief executive, said: “This approach is an internationally recognised and rigorous way of ensuring that those applying for registration who trained overseas are able to practise safely and effectively in the UK.
"The new system will not replace the need for employers to ensure that the staff they recruit display the behaviours, skills and knowledge necessary for the specific role to which they are recruited, and provide further support and development as required."
But Janet Davies, executive director at the Royal College of Nursing, said: “Whether nurses come from the EU or the rest of the world, it is vital that employers are recruiting them for the right reasons and supporting them when they get here. Too often, nurses are recruited from overseas to fill short term gaps and given inadequate support to care for patients well.”
The new tests are to be introduced in October this year. Once registered, nurses will be subject to the same system of "fitness to practice" regulation as EU-trained nurses.
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