International nurses sanctioned for bad English

There seems to be a significant number of international nurses, who are having sanctions such as suspension orders and even striking off orders imposed for having an unacceptable, level of English writing, comprehension and speech.

In one such case, The Nursing & Midwifery Council (NMC) imposed a 6 month suspension of an international nurse, for having a lower than expected understanding of the English language. She has to retake an International English Language Test System (IELTS) test and pass to an acceptable standard in order for her case to be considered for lifting the suspension.

She was employed by an NHS trust in 2017 and then subsequently reported to the NMC by the same NHS trust shortly after employment. It is said by the trust, that she was unable to understand common terminology and mistook a procedure for prescribed medication. Now was that terminology medical abbreviations? If so, it seems a bit harsh she should be expected to understand complex abbreviations so soon after employment.

The NMC requires international applicants “to demonstrate that they are capable of practising safely and effectively”. They must also “have the necessary knowledge of English to communicate effectively”.

Given there are tests and provision of evidence requirements in place, how does a nurse get accepted & employed for a job, then a few months later be reported and sanctioned for a poor understanding of English?

Should there have been an acknowledgement of accountability, for both the NHS trust and the NMC? They would have originally accepted her evidence and documentation to prove she had an acceptable standard of English comprehension in order for her to be not only accepted to go on the NMC register and then be employed as a nurse? Where was the support for the nurse from the trust that employed her?

Is there an argument for new pathways and procedures for recruitment of International nurses? We are a multicultural society and the differing experiences and skills International nurses bring is essential to the healthcare sector, surely, we need to be encouraging them, not penalising them?

Do you have a view on this?
Are there any International nurses with experiences they want to share?Comment below or write an article yourself and send it to us at 

You can see further information on the requirements on both the NMC and Royal College of Nursing (RCN) website.



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