Language barrier holds back Philippines nurse recruitment

Just three of more than 100 nurses recruited by health bosses in Walsall from the Philippines have arrived in the UK because the others cannot meet the required English language standard.

Walsall Manor Hospital has a shortage of around 100 registered nurses and twice travelled to the island nation in the last year to try and plug the gap.

Bosses say 118 Filipino nurses have accepted posts - but just three have passed the International English Language Test (IELTS) to the standard required by the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC).

And those three have not started working because they have not yet passed a practical examination which is also mandatory.

Rachel Overfield, Director of Nursing at Walsall Healthcare NHS Trust, which runs Manor Hospital, revealed the latest on the Philippines recruitment at the trust's AGM.

Replying to a question from a member of the public, she questioned the score required in the IELTS by the NMC.

She said: "We went overseas to the Philippines twice in the last year. We have offered posts to in excess of 100 nurses there. Three have arrived.

"The reason is we just can't get them through the International English Language Test. And the reason for that is the UK sets the standard to pass that higher than anywhere else in the world.

"I am really confident the ones we have offered posts to are capable of doing that job but we cannot get them in because of the rules from the NMC and immigration folks.

"All we can do is to lobby at a national level. If we could get those nurses in it would solve our problem overnight."

All non-EU trained nurses must complete the IELTS before applying to join the NMC's nursing register. The test has listening, reading, writing and speaking sections.

In May the Express & Star reported 28 registered nurses from the Philippines had joined the Royal Wolverhampton NHS Trust.

It too has had difficulties putting foreign nurses through the language test having offered posts to 220 Filipinos.

On Walsall's on-going nursing shortage, Ms Overfield, added: "I would like to say we do not need 100 registered nurses as we did a year ago but the truth is, we do. Obviously they are different vacancies, but it is still the same overall number.

"We have not made the inroads into recruiting registered nurses that I would have liked.

"This is however a national picture and we are no different. Across the Black Country there are 600 registered nurse vacancies as I speak."

The trust said it would continue to work with the nurses from the Philippines "for now."

Ms Overfield, added: "We will have to make a judgement at some point about how much more we can do."

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